Back in 2020, Denver public schools removed school resource officers from all campuses, declaring that “the close proximity of law enforcement to students on campuses directly contributes to the school-to-prison pipeline.” The move in essence made social justice a higher priority for the district than student safety, but after a 17-year-old on probation for illegally possessing a gun shot two staffers during a mandated pat-down at East High School this week before later taking his own life, the city’s mayor now says the removal of SROs was the wrong decision to make. The city’s Board of Education is also reversing course, rescinding (at least temporarily) the policy that blocked police from campus.
One day after two faculty members were shot and wounded by a student at a Denver high school, the local school board voted unanimously to temporarily suspend its nearly two-year-old ban on armed guards and police officers in its schools.
“Based on the emergency situation presented by the events of March 22, 2023, the Board of Education will hereby suspend (the ban on armed officers) through June 30, 2023,” stated the motion approved by the board Thursday.
School district Superintendent Alex Marrero said Wednesday that he was “committed” to having two armed police officers stationed at East High School during school hours through the end of the academic year regardless of the official policy.
“I am willing to accept the consequences of my actions,” Marrero said in a letter to the board. He was present at Thursday’s board vote, but did not speak at the meeting.
Denver Mayor Michael Hancock indicated he wants school resource officers back in all schools.
“Removing them was a mistake,” he said in a statement on Twitter, “and we must move swiftly to correct it.”
It’s great that Hancock and others are now realizing what a dumb idea this was, but it would have been far better had the school district not adopted its woke approach to school violence in the first place. And Mayor Hancock’s Twitter feed shows he’s still pushing more bad policy in the name of student safety.
My statement regarding today's shooting at East High School. pic.twitter.com/JThY5N9ryc
— Michael B. Hancock (@MayorHancock) March 22, 2023
If gun control was the answer to Denver’s woes, we’d have seen evidence by now. While Hancock blames the state and federal government for failing to pass his undefined “common sense proposals”, the truth is that Colorado has passed a steady stream of gun control legislation over the past decade, only to see violent crime rates (including juvenile violent crime rates) continue to increase. Denver has a number of local gun control ordinances as well, including a ban on so-called assault weapons.
In Hancock’s view, the problem is “easy access to guns”, but firearms have always been available in this country, and in theory it should be much more difficult for a 17-year-old to get his hands on one today than at any other time in our nation’s history. But let’s also be honest here; in a nation with 400-million privately-owned firearms and the constitutionally-protected right to keep and bear them, guns aren’t going away and those willing to break the law to get ahold of one can and will be able to do so.
Rather than the Sisyphean (and flagrantly unconstitutional) task of reducing the supply of firearms, the real key is to reduce the demand for guns among those who are most likely to use them in violent crimes. The best way to do that is to ensure that there are consequences for those offenders who are most at risk of violence, but what happened when Lyle was found to be illegally possessing a handgun and “large capacity” magazine (already banned under Colorado law) two years ago? Not much of anything at all. He was kicked out of his high school but was apparently placed on probation and allowed to enroll at another Denver high school, subject to being patted down for weapons every morning by school staffers.
Lyle’s transgression shouldn’t have resulted in a life sentence, but it also shouldn’t have led to the criminal justice system shrugging its shoulders and slapping him on the wrist either. The courts absolutely sent a message to the teenager. Unfortunately it told him that what he did was no big deal.
Bringing school resource officers back to the Denver Public Schools is the right call to make, but as long as Hancock and other anti-gun politicians in Colorado believe the solution is choking off the supply of firearms by cracking down on legal gun owners instead of crippling the demand for guns among the growing number of violent criminals by ensuring there are consequences for their illegal actions the underlying problem is going to remain unaddressed.