DENVER — For the first time since two East High School deans were shot, parents had their opportunity to address the Denver Public Schools Board of Education in a public comment session Monday afternoon.
The staff members were shot inside East nearly a month ago. That shooting followed another outside of the school, in which 16-year-old student Luis Garcia was killed a few weeks earlier.
The shootings angered a number of parents and inspired them to create their own parent safety advocacy group (P-SAG). That group has been meeting every Monday for the past three weeks, and a school safety plan has been at the top of their list when it comes to their demands.
"We demand the voices of concerned families and educators be brought into the policymaking progress, and we demand to know who? Who is your safety expert? If not us, who?" asked Lynsee Hudson, a co-founder of P-SAG.
Before public comment began on Monday, DPS Superintendent Dr. Alex Marrero shared a timeline on that comprehensive safety plan.
Agenda documents show the first version of the plan will be released for community review May 1 and a final version is expected to be released at the end of June.
Marrero said the district plans to create a community advisory panel to identify safety and security strategies. They will also partner with safety and security experts to provide input, as well as receive feedback from students.
Until a version of the plan is released for community review, parents, as well as former DPS employees, are frustrated with a recent presentation to DPS deans that indicates some school employees are still performing pat downs as part of students' safety plans. They shared those frustrations at a press conference near East High School on Monday morning.
"We find the lack of examination or change in these highly dangerous and unpredictable procedures to be reckless and irresponsible," Hudson said.
9NEWS obtained the documents shown to deans, the employees conducting searches, in that presentation. While it did not lay out specifics for the future, it did say the district is reevaluating how it places some potentially dangerous students back in classrooms, with a group currently working "to identify placement processes in situations implicating the most serious safety concerns."
The presentation for school deans did not suggest that anyone other than the specific staff members doing the weapons pat downs needs to be aware that a particular student could be a threat.
"Just like East High, my deans and I conducted numerous searches, and finding a weapon on a kid is really unnerving," said Jamie LoFaro, a former DPS employee. "I am hopeful that everybody wants the same thing, and it’s gonna become a safer place for kids and their families."
In this first school board meeting since the shooting, demands for change echoed in the room, one person by one.
"If you don't make changes, what responsibility will you bear when, not if, but when the next shooting happens," said Jennifer Eure, a parent.
Another mom, Dorian Warren, said, "I am shocked to hear about the extremes DPS staff are having to try to stop incidents of violence from happening in their schools."
Families are learning more about these safety plans -- plans DPS staff know well.
"Here's something that didn't make the news. January of this year DPS placed a student who has previously been in four different facilities both mental health and Denver youth corrections at my school," said Johanna Reefe.
Some parents showed up to the meeting in t-shirts that called on the board to resign. In response, Vice President Auon'tai Anderson said on Twitter: "If you’re going to ask the Board to resign at least make it look like you represent the majority of DPS students. Hint: DPS is 80% BIPOC …"
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