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‘Our children are still afraid to go to school’: East High parents demand more transparency after shooting

Coalition of more than 500 parents wants answers before kids return to class Wednesday
parent safety advocacy group psag.jpg
Posted at 4:14 PM, Apr 03, 2023
and last updated 2023-04-04 11:40:07-04

DENVER – Dozens of parents protested outside East High School Monday morning demanding more transparency from district leaders on their plan to keep children safe ahead of students returning from spring break on Wednesday.

“In two days our kids are coming back. What is going to be different? If some people don’t have a sense of urgency, we do, because we’re the ones who will miss them at night when they cannot come home,” said Astrid Ruiz, a parent of a 9th grader at East High. “This is not acceptable. Safety is not negotiable for our kids.”

Ruiz is among a growing coalition of concerned parents at East High School and beyond who want to know what the plan is going forward, in addition to school resource officers – and they want answers by the time the bell rings at 8:05 a.m. Wednesday.

“We’ve been told nothing about safety improvements at our school, except for the return of some school resource officers. We’ve not been informed about any kind of comprehensive safety plan to make DPS schools and East High School safer,” said Sri Viswanath, another parent who attended Monday’s meeting. “Our children are still afraid to go to school.”

During a secretive five-hour executive session held during a special meeting a day after the shooting of two school administrators by a 17-year-old student suspect at East High, the Denver Public School Board of Education not only suspended a controversial policy that removed SROs from all Denver high schools in 2020, but also directed the district’s superintendent, Dr. Alex Marrero, to come up with a long-term safety plan by the end of the summer.

The plan relies on community feedback from students, families, other school leaders and lawmakers before it is reviewed and voted on by the Board. If passed, the plan would go into effect prior to the start of the 2023-24 school year.

After the shooting at their school, East High School students want these changes now

But this growing group of concerned parents – who refer to their coalition as the Parent Safety Advocacy Group (PSAG) – said so far, the district has not sought out the group's input on how to make schools safer for their children.

Among their requests? An end to the Board’s executive sessions and more transparency around the details and plans of the long-term safety plan.

“We’re not here to malign anyone, but we want a seat at the table. And we want to know – what is your plan going forward?” said Vince Jordan, another parent of a student at East High and an alum of the school himself. “We have the right to demand a safe learning environment for the kids and the teachers deserve a safe environment for teaching.”

And it’s not just parents who have a stake in the safety plan. The most impacted group – the students – want to know what the district is doing to keep them from worrying about when the next school shooting will come.

“It feels like we’re not getting a lot of… prevention?” said Tessa Klopper, a junior at East. “I want to know that there are measures in place to guarantee that someone can’t walk into school with a gun.”

A family and community engagement meeting is taking place Monday from 5:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m. at East High where parents will hear from Denver Public Schools and the Denver Police Department on what they’re doing to increase safety ahead of the students’ return from spring break. Students, parents and staff will have a chance to voice their concerns.

Denver7's Russell Haythorn contributed to this report.

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