After yet another shooting, the superintendent of Denver Public Schools announced Wednesday that police officers will return to high schools in the district.
The Denver School Board unanimously voted to remove school resource officers in June 2020 after the murder of George Floyd. All officers were phased out from the city’s middle and high schools by the summer of 2021. The decision was declared a victory by community activists who had long campaigned to remove police officers from schools.
But what is happening now?
Superintendent Dr. Alex Marrero sent the school board a letter declaring his commitment to put a police officer at each comprehensive high school in the district.
And at East High School — where two staff members were shot on Wednesday after patting down a student — Marrero said he will ensure that two Denver police officers remain through the end of the school year to ensure the safety of students and staff. East High School, in particular, has dealt with a wave of gun violence this school year; a student died after being shot in February, and there was another shooting near the school in September.
“Today was my fourth visit to Denver Health’s Intensive Care Unit due to victims of gun violence,” Marrero wrote in his letter.
Marrero acknowledged his decision violates the resolution the school board passed in 2020, which specifically prohibits a “consistent presence” of police officers and armed security on school campuses.
“However,” Marrero added, “I can no longer stand on the sidelines. I am willing to accept the consequences of my actions.”
The 17-year-old student who police believe was responsible for the shooting was later found dead. Officials did not release a manner of death. The student was subject to a school safety agreement that required administrators to search him daily.
What was the reaction?
The school board said it supports Marrero’s decision.
“The Board of Education supports the decision of Superintendent Marrero to work in partnership with local law enforcement to create safer learning spaces across Denver Public Schools for the remainder of this school year,” the board said.
Denver Mayor Michael Hancock (D) also voiced support for Marrero’s decision.
“Denver Public Schools Superintendent Alex Marrero and I jointly agree that the safety of students and the public require deployment of police officers assigned to the high school for the remainder of the school year,” he said in a statement. “I encouraged and strongly support the Superintendent’s decision to bring police officers back to DPS high schools, and I’ve directed Chief [Ron] Thomas to support this effort and deploy our officers accordingly in coordination with the school district.”
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