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Denver's East High community reflects one year after school shooting

While DPS took steps to improve school safety in the wake of the shooting, some parents still don't trust the district
Denver East High School
Posted at 5:20 PM, Mar 22, 2024
and last updated 2024-03-22 20:18:24-04

DENVER — Friday marked one year since a student brought a gun to East High School and injured two administrators. In the wake of the shooting, the district developed a new long-term safety plan and district leaders said they were committed to preventing similar tragedies from happening again.

But a year later, some parents still have a hard time trusting the district.

Students and staff at East High School spent Friday in quiet reflection, looking back at everything that happened on that tragic day and everything that has happened since. Parents also spent the day reflecting on the past year.

“It was a tough year, a really tough year for East High,” said Heather Lamm.

Lamm’s oldest child attended East High last year and said the shooting was an eye-opener for many parents.

“I think most parents were stunned to learn a year ago that there were safety protocols in place that required pat-downs of certain students at schools because they were deemed such high risks,” said Lamm. “It's one of the things that inspired me last year to get really involved in trying to make some positive change in the district.”

Lamm created a group demanding Denver school board members resign and called on the district to be more transparent and accountable on issues of school safety.

“We were very unhappy with the school board last year and the administration,” said Lamm, who added they were able to make some progress.

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While no school board members resigned, two of them failed to win re-election and another decided not to run for another term.

Lamm was also happy to see school resource officers return.

“I do think that the students at East High in particular feel safer this year," said Lamm. "I think partly that is because of the presence of an SRO."

But when it comes to transparency and accountability, she said there’s still a long way to go.

“They're not listening to parent voices, they're not listening to community voices when it comes to what's actually happening at schools,” said Lamm.

She hopes the city-school coordinating committee will help.

The committee, which last met in 2011, has roots dating back to the 1930s, according to city council documents.

For years it was a way for the city and school district to work together. Following the shooting at East, some parents urged the city to bring the committee back.

“I think that my hope from this committee would be that the city says enough is enough. You have to be transparent. You have to listen to parents' voices, or there are going to be consequences,” said Lamm.

City leaders, including Mayor Mike Johnston, have been critical of the school board.

While the city has no official authority over DPS, the mayor can use his bully pulpit to influence the district.

Johnston even weighed in on school board elections last year, endorsing a slate of candidates who were challenging incumbent members.

The committee, which is composed of members appointed by the mayor, city council, school board, and superintendent, is seen by some as a way for the city to increase its influence over DPS.

It met for the first time since its reinstatement on Friday.

“This is about collaboration, and this is about government agencies or entities, different levels of government, actually communicating with one another,” said Councilwoman Serena Gonzales-Gutierrez, an at-large council member who sponsored the bill reinstating the committee. “This will be a way that we can better serve our community.”

But still, for parents like Lamm, it’s a way to feel they have a voice as the East community continues to heal.

Denver Public Schools did not respond to a request for comment.

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