DENVER (KDVR) — Parents of students who attend East High School are now reacting to Monday’s scare. Many are voicing frustration and are upset about what they’re calling a lack of communication.
Police received a call of an active shooter threat at the school, which prompted a large police presence. According to the Denver Police Department, at 1:53 p.m. they received a call from a male teacher who said there was an active shooter at the school. The teacher gave the police a description of the suspect and the address of the school and then quickly hung up.
DPD said officers quickly responded and were at the school in less than two minutes. Once officers were on scene, they went inside the school and went room to room looking for the threat. They also utilized Denver Public School’s camera system.
According to DPD, they were able to secure the school quickly and then began evacuating all the students to the football field. Ultimately, DPD confirmed that the threat was unfounded, and no injuries were reported.
Parents shared with FOX31 that they appreciate the quick response time from authorities, but the rest was “pure chaos.” Laura Apodaca shared messages that were delayed getting to parents, and they were not immediately notified about the lockdown, scrambling to find their children.
Emotional scenes during East High lockdown
Apodaca shared video of a student scrambling to find her mother and when she does, she screams and cries as they embrace on school grounds. Unfortunately, that was the reality at East High on Monday afternoon as frightened students searched for their parents.
The perimeter was filled with flashing lights and officers. Apodaca also shared a video her son took inside the school, showing armed officers in the hall trying to secure classrooms.
Apodaca’s 16-year-old son said he was in the classroom and a knock was at the door. That’s when students ran into a nearby closet for safety and he called his mother numerous times to tell her about a possible active shooter. She shared with FOX31 that she was in a work meeting and took off to the school.
“I didn’t end up trusting the school,” Apodaca said. “That’s when I knew there is no plan in place. If this was a real active emergency. The chaos would be extremely worse and so it just disheartened me. I just didn’t feel safe, and I didn’t feel like my kid was safe.”
She goes on to say the first communication she received from the school mentioned nothing about a lockdown, just where to pick up students. Apodaca described the scene when she arrived, sharing that kids were scattered in the heat for over an hour on the football field, one student was hyperventilating with a medic nearby, cars were jammed together, and rumors were swirling.
“The resources were being utilized to where we need to be, but the execution is what we need help with,” Apodaca said. “The execution is where everything fell apart.”
Denver police, public schools respond
DPD and DPS addressed questions on Monday and the superintendent did admit communication could have been better with parents. DPS also shared that officials had a meeting on Tuesday to review Monday’s scare and have started a plan to be more successful in the future.
As for what parents are calling “delayed” notification, DPS told FOX31 proper procedure includes the following: “Parents will be notified by email and text once the information can be confirmed. That means that we are not going to send a message until a DPS Department of Safety officer or DPD officer has arrived and can confirm the conditions. Because we want to share information that is confirmed and correct, parents are often hearing from their students inside the school before they hear from us.”
A spokesperson for DPS also said that if parents did not receive any communication from the district on Monday, the system pulls the contact information from the student database. If the information is out of date or incorrect, parents will not receive the notifications. The district is encouraging all families to make sure that their information is correct in their student’s database.
As far as the decision to send students to the football field, DPS said that decision was made by officers inside the building. FOX31 reached out to DPD and has not heard back yet.
Meanwhile, Apodaca said a group of parents is getting together to address the issues and present to school officials. She said parents should have a say in the planning process and know what to do if a situation arises again.