East High parents call for more transparency from school board after shooting

DENVER — Dozens of parents protested outside East High School Monday morning, demanding more transparency from district leaders about their plan to protect children before students return from spring break on Wednesday.

“Our children will be back in two days. What will 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 can’t come home,” said Astrid Ruiz, parent of a ninth grader at East High. “This is unacceptable. Safety for our children is non-negotiable.”

Ruiz is among a growing coalition of concerned parents at East High School and beyond who want to know how the plan is progressing, in addition to the school’s resource officers — and they want answers when the bell rings at 8:05 a.m. Wednesday.

“We have not been informed of any safety improvements at our school other than the return of some school resource officers. We were not briefed on any comprehensive safety plan to make the 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 secret five-hour executive meeting held during a special session a day after a 17-year-old suspected student at East High shot two school administrators, the Denver Public School Board of Education not only suspended a controversial policy that removed SROs of all high schools in Denver in 2020, but also to the district superintendent, Dr. Alex Marrero, instructed to come up with a long-term security plan by the end of the summer.

The plan draws on community feedback from students, families, other school leaders and legislators before being reviewed and voted on by the board. If approved, the plan would go into effect before the start of the 2023-24 school year.

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

But this growing group of concerned parents – who refer to their coalition as the Parent Safety Advocacy Group (PSAG) – previously said the district had not sought the group’s input to make schools safer for their children.

To your inquiries? An end to executive meetings of the board and more transparency regarding the details and plans of the long-term security plan.

“We’re not here to slander anyone, but we want a seat at the table. And we want to know — what’s your plan for the future?” said Vince Jordan, another parent of a student at East High and himself a graduate of the school. “We have the right to demand a safe learning environment for children, and teachers deserve a safe teaching environment.”

And it’s not just parents who are involved in the safety plan. The hardest-hit group – the students – want to know what the county is doing to stop them worrying about when the next school shooting will come.

“It feels like we’re not getting much…prevention?” said Tessa Klopper, a junior at East. “I want to know that there are measures in place to guarantee that no one can go to school with a gun.”

On Mondays from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., East High hosts a family and community outreach where parents learn from Denver Public Schools and the Denver Police Department what they are doing to keep the students safe Returning from spring break. Students, parents and staff have an opportunity to voice their concerns.

Denver7’s Russell Haythorn contributed to this report.

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