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First draft of Denver Public Schools safety plan addresses SROs, weapons detection technology

One of the victim's sisters speaks for first time since shooting on the same day draft is released
Denver Public Schools
Posted at 4:57 PM, May 01, 2023

DENVER — Denver Public Schools released the first draft of its school safety plan on Monday afternoon, and it provided an initial proposal for school resource officers and weapon detection technology for DPS schools.

The nearly 50-page plan was created with the intention of providing both guidance and resources to prevent violence and, if an emergency does happen, to have direction on what to do. It encompasses every school, campus and the Central Office building.

Will Jones, executive director of communications for Denver Public Schools (DPS), said on Monday that this first version of the safety plan "is far from a finished product." However, DPS wanted to share it with the community, and will continue to update them as the plan develops.

DPS will gather feedback through May 21, a second draft will be released on May 26, and then feedback will be gathered through June 4. The plan will be finalized on June 23 and the DPS Board of Education will review it on June 30.

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After a student shot and injured two deans at East High School on March 22, parents demanded more transparency from the school district regarding safety protocols. East High School Principal Terita Walker sent an email to the community on April 8 to explain why students who are on a pat-down procedure are allowed to attend classes, though many parents were not satisfied with the answer. The shooter was one of at least 20 who were on a daily pat-down procedure when entering a district high school, Denver7 Investigates learned.

In the wake of the shooting, the DPS Board of Education also suspended a controversial policy from 2020 that removed school resource officers (SROs) from all Denver high schools. Thirteen school resource officers have returned to Denver high school campuses, but parents asked why only certain schools got the extra security and who will ultimately pay for it.

The board of education also directed the district’s superintendent, Dr. Alex Marrero, to come up with a long-term safety plan the day after the shooting.

The first draft of that plan was released Monday. DPS has not historically had one comprehensive safety document encompassing all protocols, DPS said.

"The new Long-Term Operational Safety Plan is our first attempt at compiling all of that we do to help keep our students, families and educators safe," it said in a statement to Denver7.

The new drafted plan stresses the importance of collaboration, and includes input from both experts, students, employees and community members.

One of the key parts of the plan that interested much of the community ahead of its release was the use of SROs.

The Department of Climate and Safety has safety personnel and campus safety officers (CSOs) are staffed at comprehensive high schools and middle schools, and DPS is currently conducting a staffing analysis to evaluate their presence in the schools and if — and where — more staff may be needed.

The draft details the different certifications and responsibilities that fall under SROs, CSOs, Denver police officers and Department of Correction Services patrol officers. Those details are outlined in the document below:

DPS draft plan for school security

SROs were removed from DPS schools in June 2020 during a school board meeting. This ruling is paused and will resume on June 30, unless the board of education decides to make a change.

Superintendent Marrero recommended that the board of education let all district-run high schools and 6th-12th campuses make site-based decisions on whether they want SROs back in the schools. This must involve community engagement, the drafted plan reads.

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The plan also acknowledges how weapon detection technology could prevent firearms from ever unknowingly entering a school. It points to Baltimore Public Schools, sports arenas, courts and airports, where "low profile entry-based weapons detection systems" are set up. Staff personnel will need to manage the systems during peak times, the document reads. Like SROs, this would also be a site-based decision.

DPS is currently in the process of retraining all employees and students in the Standard Response Protocol (SRP), which is used by more than 40,000 schools across the world. It is "action-based, flexible, and easy to learn," the DPS drafted plan reads, and rationally organizes tactics for responses related to weather, intruders or other threats.

The SRP sets expectations for students, is a simple process for teachers to train, and uses common vocabulary and protocols for first responders, the document reads.

This year, there will be a greater emphasis on "mandatory emergency management training for all District staff," the plan reads.

The plan also details the priorities for the 2023-2024 school year. The first goal is to create a safe and welcoming environment by providing students with the resources they need to thrive in the classroom. The second goal is to have all students reading and writing on their grade level.

Two community town halls are scheduled to further discuss the plan — May 17 from 10-11 a.m. and 6-7 p.m. In addition, a qualitative survey will gather feedback from May 8 through May 19.

About a month after the shooting and a couple weeks before this drafted plan was released, parents with the Resign DPS Board group started a petition for an entirely new school board. During a regularly scheduled board of education meeting in mid-April, they pushed for the resignation of all board members.

On the same day the draft was released, the Parent Safety Advocacy Group held a press conference with one of the injured dean's sisters as their keynote speaker.

Collinus Newsome said her older brother is Jerald Mason, who the family calls Wayne.

“This is the human being that no one has talked about," said Newsome. “My brother does his job, because he loves it... I can't speak about policies or what should and shouldn't have happened. I know he did his job that day.”

Newsome said her brother was shot in the chest and is healing from his wounds, but does not believe he will come back to work for the school district.

“There are only three people that know what happened in that room, and one of them is dead, and his name is Austin. And we failed him too," said Newsome.

Newsome said her brother plans on speaking publicly at a similar press conference next Monday. She said the district has not been helpful during this process, but in a statement, DPS disagreed.

We understand the impact that this has had on the Mason family, specifically on Dean Mason’s sister, who has been closely involved in his recovery. Dr. Marrero cares deeply about every staff member. We want to ensure that, while we are giving both deans the space and time to heal from their tragic experiences, we are also letting them know that we are here for them as needed.

There have been several touchpoints between the district and the Mason family. These interactions include conversations between Superintendent Dr. Alex Marrero and Chief of Talent Edwin Hudson with the family and Mr. Mason himself. In addition, there have been several conversations and communications through text between the family and Deputy Superintendent of Schools Dr. Anthony Smith, Deputy Chief of Staff Deborah Staten, and Executive Director of Family and Community Engagement Adella Arredondo. Denver Public Schools remains committed to maintaining this open communication to ensure that the district is helping to meet the needs of Mr. Mason.
Spokesperson, Denver Public Schools

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