We are super excited to begin the new school year. As stated in our Strategic Roadmap, Safe and Welcoming environments are a priority in achieving our vision that “All Learners Thrive”.
As we prepare to start the school year I wanted to share some of the details of our new safety initiatives and also provide a few essential reminders of some simple steps you can take to maximize the safety of our campuses. Remember, safety is everyone’s responsibility.
I encourage you to bookmark this message for future reference as it is a comprehensive resource regarding safety within Denver Public Schools.
School Resource Officers (SRO)
We are thankful for our partnership with the Denver Police Department (DPD). Without them, and the support of our Board of Education, we would not be able to reincorporate SROs as part of our comprehensive safety plan.
It is important to acknowledge that the role of an SRO goes beyond that of a traditional law enforcement officer. SROs play a multifaceted role within schools, acting as informal counselor, educator, and, if need be, law enforcer. The decision to have SROs present in certain schools was based on a thorough assessment of each school’s unique context and needs.
We understand that the return of SROs has caused concern for some in the community. Our goal is for our SROs to be valued members of the school community. Each school that has an SRO assigned this year will go above and beyond to ensure that our students and staff members have the opportunity to engage with their SRO so that we can build a culture of trust and understanding.
Although the time was brief, when SROs returned at the end of last school year, there was no increase in ticketing and arrests in the schools where they were present. We will continue to monitor the return of SROs carefully and will take action, if needed, to ensure our students of color are not the recipient of disproportionate action from law enforcement. I believe that with vigilance we can benefit from the safety SROs provide without participating in the school to prison pipeline.
Balancing safety with the educational and emotional needs of students is paramount. As we continue to work collaboratively, we can ensure that SROs contribute positively to the school community while respecting the values and goals of each institution.
At the start of the year the following schools will have an SRO assigned to their building.
- Abraham Lincoln High School
- East High School
- Evie Dennis Campus
- George Washington High School
- John F. Kennedy High School
- Manual High School
- Martin Luther King Early College
- Montbello High School
- North High School
- Northfield High School
- South High School
- Thomas Jefferson High School
- West High School
Department of Climate and Safety
While our partnership with DPD is invaluable it is also important to recognize our own internal Department of Climate and Safety. The department has over 140 team members including an investigator, armed patrol officers, dispatchers, emergency management professionals, campus safety officers, and a prevention-focused support team. Their responsibilities are far-reaching and are the first line of defense for our school community. In addition to training district staff in emergency management, they also protect our stakeholders from harm and offer guidance to school administrators to enhance school climate and safety in a wide variety of situations.
While we will not have an SRO stationed at each school, our Campus Safety Officers (CSO) and Patrol Officers provide extensive coverage and are an invaluable resource for our school communities.
Student Search Protocol
The Department of Climate and Safety will support school teams with the implementation of Action Intervention Plans that call for daily searches of students. This includes a plan for regional coverage by existing patrol officers (armed) and CSOs (unarmed, school-based) to provide particular support on a case by case basis, depending on the needs of individual schools and their students. Searches of students who have an Action Intervention Plan due to a weapons related concern will be conducted by trained DPS patrol officers. This also allows the District to effectively leverage current employees, trained and knowledgeable about school-based procedures and responsive to District expectations, to help ensure safe school environments.
While SROs from DPD will be in some schools, they will not participate in preplanned student searches associated with Action Intervention Plans. SROs are only able to search students in the event that they have probable cause to believe a crime has been committed.
Mental Health Resources
- All eligible students will be screened using two forms of the BESS (Student Self-Report, Teacher Report, and/or Parent Report) three times during the 23-24 school year (beginning, middle, and end of year).
- The Behavioral and Emotional Screening System (BESS) is designed for schools to screen for a variety of behavioral and emotional disorders that can lead to adjustment problems.
- The ultimate goal is to use BESS data to match students with the most appropriate level and type of social emotional or mental health intervention – using the right method, at the right time, for the right duration, and from a well-trained team of school staff.
- The Student Safety Coordinator Team is currently developing suicide, threat, and non-suicidal self injury training for district implementation in Spring of 2024.
- All DPS staff will complete this annually within the Information Learning Management system.
Each of our schools participates in practice drills multiple times each year. It is vital that each student, staff member, and parent/guardian understand and follow our procedures during an emergency drill. Please talk to your student(s) about the importance of our emergency drills so that they understand how to safely operate in the case of an actual emergency.
- Lockdown Drills
- All schools are required to conduct a lockdown drill within 30 days of the new semester. The Department of Climate and Safety will be scheduling and observing lockdown drills at every school.
- All lockdown and secure perimeter drills must be completed by Sept. 30, 2023.
- Fire and Shelter in Place Drills
- One fire drill must be completed within the first 10 days of school, and one must be completed every month after for the remainder of the school year.
- One Shelter-in-Place drill must be completed per semester.
- Tornado Drills
- Conducted prior to severe weather season and designed to practice moving students and staff to a safe location within a building or structure in the event of a tornado or severe weather warning.
- Lockdown Drills
- Emergency Operations Plans (EOP)
- Each school has an Emergency Operations Plan which is used to govern and train staff and students on how to respond in the event of an emergency.
- Each school has an Emergency Management Specialist who assists in the creation and oversight of their Emergency Operations Plan to ensure that it is in compliance with district policies.
Standard Response Protocol (SRP) Language
- A uniform, planned, and practiced response to any incident is the foundation of a safe school. DPS has adopted the standard response protocol language system, Hold, Secure, Lockdown, Evacuate, and Shelter. The use of this standard language ensures that there is no confusion when communicating during a crisis.
- Find more information on the Standard Response Protocol here (more resources are available in Spanish, Portuguese, Somali and Arabic).
- Staff and Students may also view a short video of the Standard Response Protocol.
- Emergency Management
- This year, we will offer emergency management training for all district staff through our Learning Management System.
- This training is a new, annual requirement for all staff as emphasized in the Long-Term Safety Plan.
- Live, on-site, training for emergency scenarios is also available for all schools.
- We are empowering schools to take control of their staff access to their own buildings. FusionX is the district’s web-based system that provides a secure way to review door contact status as well as allows current users to search, view, and edit personnel and their access.
- This allows users to immediately give access to personnel that are in the system access to their school. With Fusion X, alarms (doors held) can be viewed, acknowledged, and cleared meaning doors propped open can be dealt with swiftly.
- Exterior Doors
- All exterior doors must be secured at all times. No doors may be manually unlocked or propped open at any time. Unsecured exterior doors place our schools at risk.
- Any unsecured door must be monitored by a staff member.
- We recommend all classroom and office doors be in the locked position at all times. Interior doors may be open or propped, but keeping them in the locked position allows them to be more easily secured in an emergency.
- All visitors, including DPS employees who are visiting a school where they are not assigned, must be checked in by the Raptor Visitor Management System.
FOB and/or ID Cards
- All district employees are required to wear DPS-issued ID badges with the photo side visible while on district property.
- All DPS high school students are required to wear identification badges on school property during school hours.
Visitors Access Guidelines
- All visitors must enter DPS buildings through the main entrance.
- All visitors are required to have their identification scanned by the Raptor Visitor Management System. Please read Board of Education policies on School Visitors and Public Conduct on School Property.
- Pre-approved community partners will continue to have access to DPS schools. A DPS community partner is defined as those organizations providing staff and student support to our schools. Examples of DPS community partners may include private duty nurses, Boys and Girls Club of Denver, etc.
Communication during a crisis
Quick and accurate communication is vital in an emergency situation. Parents
are notified of major incidents as soon as DPS Public Safety validates the incident. We
acknowledge that students with cell phones will be able to communicate with their families even before the DPS Communications Department is made aware of the situation. This leads to the DPS Communications team being behind before they even begin. Please keep in mind that it is possible that the information that is initially shared by people within the school may not be accurate. DPS Communications will only share accurate and verified information. However, we will communicate consistently with our community during a crisis situation.
The Communications Department utilizes SchoolMessenger, the DPS website, DPS social media, and any other communication platforms necessary to ensure that messaging is received by anyone who needs to hear it. To ensure that you receive emergency notifications from DPS please make sure your contact information is up to date.
What you can do to help
We teach students—and ask parents and caregivers to remind students—that:
- Weapons are not allowed on school grounds, ever. Guns, knives, toy guns, ammunition, or any device meant to cause harm are prohibited and carry significant school and possible criminal consequences.
- Explosives are not allowed. Fireworks, smoke bombs, flares, or any incendiary devices are prohibited.
- Illegal drugs of any kind (opioids, marijuana, etc.), vaping devices and tobacco products are not allowed on school grounds.
- Fighting and physical altercations such as shoving, pushing, or being physically aggressive toward anyone are not allowed.
- When visiting a school, please stop by the office first in order to have your identification scanned by the Raptor Visitor Management System.
Securing Firearms at Home
If there are guns in your home, I urge you to please ensure they are stored securely. According to BeSmart for Kids, a gun safety campaign, nearly 700 children, aged 17 and under, die by suicide with a gun every year. Storing firearms securely can help prevent tragedies at home, in our communities, and in our schools.
To learn more about secure gun storage click the link.
Denver Public Schools is a proud partner of Safe2Tell. Safe2Tell allows anyone to anonymously report anything that concerns or threatens you, your friends, your family, or your community. You can make a report by visiting https://safe2tell.org or by clicking the link.
While this message covered a great deal of information from the district as a whole, each school is also making adjustments to their individual safety plans. If you have specific questions about your child’s school I encourage you to reach out to the principal to learn more.
Safety is everyone’s responsibility. If you see something that you think we can improve upon or if the procedures I’ve laid out above are not being followed in your community please let us know! Contact the building leader/principal to directly express your concerns. Safety is not a destination to reach, but rather a journey of constant improvement. We are committed to taking that journey with our amazing DPS community.
Together we can ensure we create an environment where every student thrives.
Dr. Alex Marrero
Denver Public Schools
If you wish to share a safety concern please utilize the contact information below:
Kip Sixbery, Emergency Manager
Lisa Wehrli, Patrol Operations Division
Valarie Barrientos, Campus Safety Division
DPS Dispatch, 24/7 Dispatch Center
720-423-3911 (33911 from any district phone)