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At least 20 students on pat-down protocol in Denver high schools, records show

Denver East student was being patted down last month just prior to shooting that injured two deans
Denver East High School
Posted at 5:18 PM, Apr 07, 2023

DENVER — The Denver East High School shooter who wounded two faculty members last month was one of at least 20 who were on a daily pat-down procedure when entering a district high school, Denver7 Investigates learned.

The alleged gunman, 17, shot two deans during a pat-down on March 22. The victims, Jearld Mason and Eric Sinclair, survived the shooting. The suspect's body was found later that night in Park County after an apparent suicide.

Through open records requests, Denver7 learned that Denver Public Schools does not keep records of who or how many students are on a pat-down procedure. However, emails obtained shed light on numbers at a few of the area’s high schools.

On the day of the shooting, records show two students in addition to the suspect were patted down daily at Denver East High School. Denver North High School had 12 students patted down and Abraham Lincoln High School had six students on the policy.

Three high schools — George Washington, Denver South and Denver School of the Arts — did not have any students receiving pat-downs that day.

At least 20 students on pat-down protocol in Denver high schools, records show

Sources specified that students may be put on a pat-down protocol because they are deemed a danger to themselves or others.

“I think it’s something that parents should be concerned about,” Denver Police Chief Ron Thomas told Denver7 Investigates. “I would want to ask some questions. I would certainly want to know how these safety measures take place.”

Thomas confirmed that since school resource officers have returned to the district, they can only conduct a pat-down if they have received a tip and there is probable cause. Otherwise, pat-downs are conducted by staff.

Officers are allowed to observe and respond if needed during a pat-down.

“Certainly, I think it’s helpful that you will have SROs in the school,” Thomas said.

In an email to parents Saturday morning, East High School principal Terita Walker provided an explanation from district leaders as to why students who are on a pat-down procedure are allowed to attend classes.

"DPS strives to provide the best, most well-rounded educational opportunities to every student. In doing so, we attempt to best address thier behavior off campus and on campus in a way that is fair and rests upon the due process of our justice system. We will not, and have not, ever come to a determination that any child is undeserving of a quality public education," the DPS statement read.

The document goes on to state that the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) prevents school officials from publicly sharing disciplinary records, including safety plans, of DPS students.