DENVER (KDVR) — Denver Public Schools released a first draft of its new safety plan on Monday that could let individual schools decide if school resource officers will be in the halls.
The 48-page draft is already getting some pushback from at least one school board member.
Board of Education Vice President Auon’tai Anderson told FOX31 he has significant concerns with the initial safety plan.
One of the biggest concerns is the debate over SROs. The district made an emergency decision to reinstate SROs until June 30 after two deans were shot at East High in March.
Denver Police Chief Ron Thomas said during a parent advocacy group meeting that things are going “fantastic.”
“We have the right people in the right places and they’re taking the opportunity to better our relationship with youth in schools,” Thomas said.
Superintendent Alex Marrero is recommending in the safety plan that all district-run high schools and campuses with grades 6-12 decide whether or not to have armed officers on campus. The decision would be made through a community engagement process that would happen annually.
“I want us to be able to have a district-wide approach, because some students shouldn’t only have the ability to be deemed safe and others not-so,” Anderson said.
‘It’s going to come down to who we are policing’
According to the draft plan, the same would go for metal detectors, meaning the decision would be left to individual schools.
“When you walk into this school, you’re walking into a metal detector, and then when you walk into another school, you’re not,” Anderson said. “It’s going to come down to who we are policing, and that further perpetuates the school-to-prison pipeline.”
Anderson wants to see a district-wide solution and said the plan as proposed will lead to confusion among students and parents, disproportionate experiences and ultimately declining enrollment.
The police chief has been very vocal about his support for officers in schools but said the solution doesn’t stop there.
“I don’t believe that police officers are the only answer,” Thomas said.
Anderson is also critical of the district’s current mental health services and shared with FOX31 that the district dedicates over $50 million a year to services. Denver Public Schools is the largest district in the state, and Anderson said he’s grateful for the funds, but more are needed.
“I know that the 400 practitioners that we have are not sufficient to the needs of all of our students,” Anderson said.
The draft plan states, “The minimum expectation for school-based mental health providers is 1 full-time employee per school. With 205 schools, we have far exceeded this expectation.” The plan also mentions behavioral and emotional screenings for students.
Anderson on safety plan: I’d vote no
Anderson also wants to see pat-downs conducted by campus safety officers, not administrators.
“This is not who we are, and we should not be implementing practices that put people’s lives in danger. However, I want to ensure that we have trained professionals, like our campus safety officers, that are able to respond to this moment,” Anderson said.
To view all of Anderson’s concerns, read his full statement.
Anderson is urging the superintendent and the school community to reevaluate the proposed plan and said he looks forward to working together on it.
“If I had to vote on this current plan. I’d have to vote no,” Anderson said.
The superintendent stated that the first draft comes after initial input from safety experts and community feedback. Another draft will be released on June 1, and the final draft is expected at the end of June.
FOX31 reached out to the superintendent for a response to Anderson’s concerns and has not heard back.