Mar 27, 2023 - News

What we know — and don't — about DPS' safety plan after East High shooting

An unmarked police vehicle outside East High School in Denver on March 22, after a shooting at the school. Photo: Esteban L. Hernandez/Axios

Last week's shooting at East High School is putting the spotlight on a safety plan the district deploys for some students.

Driving the news: The student who is suspected of shooting two faculty members was under an agreement that required he be patted down each day before classes as part of a safety plan. East staff were aware he had a criminal background.

Yes, but: Few additional details have been shared about why 17-year-old Austin Lyle was on the plan, and how many pupils in the nearly 90,000-student district have to follow similar policies.

What they're saying: Denver public schools superintendent Alex Marrero told reporters last week that he does not have an exact number of how many kids participate because it fluctuates daily.

  • "On any given day, we can have an additional student put on a plan and also a plan can expire," Marrero said.
  • He said at East there was a school staff member who would regularly check with Lyle, but that person wasn't there last week.
  • He said the pat down is done with consent from the student or the student's parents.

Of note: A Denver Public Schools spokesperson did not respond to Axios Denver's multiple requests for more information about how the program works, who is eligible and how long Lyle was part of the program.

The intrigue: A specific student's safety plan can't be disclosed by the district because it's protected by federal law, a district spokesperson told the Denver Gazette.

Zoom in: Marrero said safety plans for students are commonplace in districts across the country. According to the Denver Post, the goal is to curb "problematic behavior" including suicidal ideation and violent tendencies.

  • They can be prompted by a student bringing a weapon to a school or writing something alarming.
  • Lyle was expelled from Overland High School in Aurora during the 2021-22 school year, which CBS Colorado reported was related to gun possession.

What's next: The school board has tasked Marrero with creating a long-term plan for the district to ensure student safety, which includes adding armed police officers to its high schools.


Get more local stories in your inbox with Axios Denver.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more

More Denver stories

No stories could be found


Get a free daily digest of the most important news in your backyard with Axios Denver.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more