DENVER (KDVR) — FOX31 heard from the man who used to lead Denver Public Schools’ Department of Safety following the double shooting Wednesday.
Michael Eaton, who now works in San Antonio, happened to be in town this week when that shooting happened at East High.
He spent 11-and-a-half years with the district and said he is just devastated by the news.
“SROs and police officers are a vital part of an all-inclusive emergency management plan for large urban school districts,” Eaton said. “Some opponents may say an SRO wouldn’t have stopped this from happening. I disagree. You can’t quantify the prevention that an armed uniformed SRO could have provided in a horrible situation like [Wednesday].”
He agrees with the DPS board’s decision to bring officers back to high schools for the remainder of the school year. The move was an about-face from the board’s decision in 2020, linked to what some school officials at the time believed did more harm than good for students of color, who were ticketed or arrested more than their peers.
“You know, I’m sure that families and students that feel disenfranchised and have had negative experiences with cops, those are real to them. And we need to acknowledge that,” he said.
The Problem Solvers looked into a study by the Annenberg Institute at Brown University, which found “SROs do effectively reduce some forms of violence in schools, but don’t prevent school shootings or gun-related incidents.” It even suggests “SROs intensify the use of suspensions, expulsions, police referrals, and arrests of students.”
Father of student killed at Highlands Ranch STEM school is advocate of SROs
The father of Kendrick Castillo, killed in the STEM School shooting in Highlands Ranch in 2019, said he’s been a steady advocate for SROs and armed security guards in schools.
“You know, it’s like peeling off a band-aid to our own personal event that took place in 2019 when we lost our son Kendrick,” John Castillo said.
“I think we really need to listen to the end user, and that is, the students, teachers, parents, and even the SROs and law enforcement who know what’s going to make these communities safe,” Castillo said.
But is reimplementing SROs the only solution for preventing the root problems of school shootings and gun violence?
“We need to rewrite how police officers build positive relationships with students. With that in mind, we have to define how that happens moving forward, rather than letting it define us,” Eaton said.
Eaton also made note that with the violence and record number of guns in schools right now, the response has to be two-fold: safety and mental health.