Aug 23, 2022 - News

Denver schools ramp up security as fall semester kicks off

Illustration of an x-ray image of an apple.
Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

With kids back in classrooms, school districts in metro Denver are taking steps this fall to better keep students and staff safe.

Why it matters: The school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, in May resurfaced all-too-familiar fears for Colorado parents about the safety of their children.

What's happening: Officials at Denver Public Schools have equipped every exterior door across the district's 200-plus schools with new sensors, district spokesperson Scott Pribble tells Axios Denver.

  • The sensors trigger alarms to the school office, where staff have immediate access to cameras and can call police with a panic button.
  • Officials are also in the process of replacing cameras across all district schools.

Context: DPS phased out school resource officers in fall 2021 as a means to reduce the school-to-prison pipeline — the link between punishments and the criminal justice system that disproportionately impacts students of color.

  • The district now utilizes 77 onsite "campus safety officers," or staff armed with tasers, to help with school security, Pribble says.
  • DPS also works with 22 armed officers, who are stationed in patrol vehicles in their assigned part of the city and respond to schools when dispatched.

Zoom out: Other public schools in metro Denver have also ramped up security measures in recent months.

  • The Cherry Creek School District has installed new technology that lets teachers in every classroom lock their doors with a single button, and is also working to improve its radio system and communication between personnel during lockdown events.
  • All classrooms are equipped with "RedBags" that contain first aid supplies marked with a QR code that activates a secure communication system via cellphone during a security lockdown.

The big picture: Public schools across the country have been scrambling to improve security for the new academic year in the wake of Uvalde.

  • Similarly to Colorado, a growing number of districts are investing in panic buttons, security cameras, metal detectors and other tools and strategies to prevent another tragedy.

The intrigue: The heightened interest in school safety has made for a busy summer for security consulting companies and driven sales for new safety products like bulletproof backpacks.

The bottom line: Kids are returning to the classroom this semester fearing for their lives.

  • "I'm nervous to go back … because you go to school never knowing what'll happen that day or even if you'll make it home," Kenzie Abbott, a junior at Cherokee Trail High School in Aurora, told 9News.
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