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DPS superintendent says even students accused of attempted murder should be eligible to return to their classrooms

Dr. Alex Marrero defended the district's controversial safety policy Monday.

DENVER — The head of Denver Public Schools is defending the district’s policy of not expelling students accused of violent crimes – including attempted murder – as long as those crimes take place off school grounds.

“What happens to that student? Should we kick them to the curb and say good luck?” DPS Superintendent Dr. Alex Marrero said.

Marrero said the district must concern itself with matters that take place on school grounds and not off. 

“We’re responsible for what we’re responsible for, which is the confines of our school properties and our buildings,” he said.

His comments – the first comments he’s made to 9NEWS since his decision to fire the principal of McAuliffe International School in July – follow increased scrutiny of the district’s safety policies.

In March, a student shot two deans inside East High School. The deans were attempting to check the student for weapons.

A few days later, McAuliffe’s principal told 9NEWS the district was forcing him and his staff to conduct similar weapons pat-downs of a student accused of attempted murder.

RELATED: Student accused of attempted murder placed in DPS school despite concerns of principal, Denver Police

Records reviewed by 9NEWS show the district had denied Kurt Dennis’ request to expel the student because the alleged crime did not take place on school grounds.

Dennis maintains in a federal lawsuit he was ultimately fired for talking to 9NEWS about his safety concerns. The district disputes that.

Marrero downplayed the pat-downs that DPS staff must conduct on a daily basis – 23 on Sept. 6, for example.

“I did it as a principal, Chris. It comes with the territory,” Marrero told 9NEWS reporter Chris Vanderveen. “I remember doing them in the South Bronx.”

He said he’s not hearing from a lot of staff concerned about this issue. 

“I’ve met with all leaders," he said. "I’ve asked them their priorities and safety has been named, but it hasn’t hovered around the top.”

“The reality is our schools have been and continue to be safe and secure. That’s a fact. Can we do better?  Sure,” he said.

> If you have any information you’d like to share with reporter Chris Vanderveen regarding this story, feel free to contact him at Chris.vanderveen@9news.com.

RELATED: A student accused of attempted murder deemed still eligible to return to DPS... Again

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