Sworn Police Officers Return to High Schools; North Poll Shows Mixed Feelings

By Eric Heinz

Following the shooting of two officials in March at East High School, Denver Public Schools recently voted to return sworn police officers to high schools throughout the district through June 30.

The decision was made during a recent closed session in which the board voted unanimously to return the officers to the high schools.

German Echevarria, the principal of North High School, declined to comment at length on the matter and referred The Denver North Star to the materials DPS has sent out regarding the assignments of officers.

“We are scheduled to have an assigned officer upon the return of spring break,” Echevarria said. “Not sure what the plan is for the (school year) ’23-24.”

However, Echevarria was able to share a recent survey given to North High families and students. According to the survey, about 79% of families responded that they wanted the officers back in schools, and 32% of students said they want them back, 19% said they do not want them back and nearly 50% said they were unsure.

DPS Superintendent Alex Marerro said prior to the board vote that he knew he was overstepping his authority in making the decision to have armed officers return to high schools, but the board said, subsequently, that it favored that move.

“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 statement read. “In addition, we will continue to work collaboratively with our community partners including law enforcement and our local & state legislature to make our community safer.”

The resulting incident from East High, however, has caused some parents to sign a petition to recall all the members of the DPS Board of Education after it voted in 2020 to remove armed police officers at their schools following the George Floyd protests for racial justice.

“A critical role of the school board is to develop effective policies and review them periodically. The Board has failed to deliver,” a statement from the petition reads. “With the ongoing violence in and around our schools, the boards’ reversal, incoherence and uncertainty on school safety policies, and the continued tension and misalignment with current and past superintendents, Denver’s students, teachers and families deserve a new start.”

Some criticized having sworn police officers in schools as a way to target children who have behavioral issues, often those who are students of color.

Board director Auon’tai M. Anderson, who currently serves as vice president, vehemently opposed having officers at the schools and voted along with the board in 2020 to dissolve the program. He has been active on his Twitter feed in recent weeks responding to the backlash he and the rest of the board have received due to the earlier decision.

Anderson was indirectly criticized by Board President Xóchitl Gaytán for recently sharing information that was discussed in a closed session, which allows governing bodies to meet in privacy, with certain required disclosures on any decisions the body has made.

“Individual directors of the DPS Board of Education have a right to free speech, and when they engage with the public, they are speaking for themselves and do not represent the views of the entire body,” Gaytán stated.

Anderson said in a statement on Twitter that he has a sibling who attends East High and that the shooting was a “personal matter” to him, and that he wanted to be transparent with constituents.

“I believe my constituents deserve honesty and transparency and I provided them with that and exercised my First Amendment right and now I’m being retaliated against,” Anderson said in one response on the social media site.


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