DENVER (KDVR) — As the Denver community tries to process and grapple with youth gun violence and school shootings, FOX31 is hearing from the former principal of Columbine High School.
Frank DeAngelis offered his perspective and it’s one that’s held in high regard because it’s a reality he knows all too well. DeAngelis said when he heard the news about East High, his heart sank, and he thought “here we go again.”
Wednesday’s double shooting inside East High brings back painful memories for DeAngelis.
“To be honest with you, I had flashbacks of that horrific day at Columbine,” DeAngelis said.
On April 20, 1999, two students went on a shooting spree and killed 13 people and injured more than 20 others at Columbine High School. DeAngelis was the school principal at that time.
“It’s heartbreaking knowing that it continues to happen and what can we do?” DeAngelis questioned.
At the time, Columbine was the worst high school shooting in U.S. history and prompted a nationwide debate on school safety and gun control. More than 20 years later and the ongoing debate continues. Following recent violence at East High, resulting in the death of two students and the shooting of two administrators, the district has decided to put school resource officers back in the hallways. It’s a move that DeAngelis said is for the best.
“I think it’s so important, their presence,” DeAngelis said. “I am a strong proponent and I want to applaud the Denver school board because they are going to put police officers back in when students are crying out that we want officers in.”
The former principal shared that SROs were at Columbine on the day of the shooting and although it didn’t prevent it from happening, it did allow for immediate action. Outside of the horrific day, DeAngelis says SROs are not about discipline.
“It’s all about relationships and the officers that we had were part of our staff. They went to games, they went to dances, they were in the cafeteria, and they were adults that kids trusted,” he said.
He also thinks more mental health resources are needed.
“There are kids that are crying out for help, and we need to provide that help,” DeAngelis told FOX31.
DeAngelis is a founder of NASSP Principal Recovery Network, which is a network made up of former and current school principals impacted by gun tragedies. He said through hearing every member’s experience, there is not one solution to fix the issue. But making sure students feel safe and supported is the right step.
In Colorado, students can anonymously report using Safe2Tell.
The former principal also said that social media plays a bigger role now than it did in 1999 and people shouldn’t underestimate the power students have. He’s encouraging all students to report anything suspicious or anything that makes them feel uneasy.