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  • Writer's pictureEast Spotlight Newspaper

The State of East High School

Denver East High School had a tumultuous 2023-24 school year. The building was swatted, a student’s life was violently taken, and two deans were shot inside the building. As a result, the greater body of East was left to piece their community back together. Additionally, East was placed on lockdown many times and the fire alarm became a normal occurrence. The beloved and historic high school rapidly turned unsafe and deadly. Leaving the year, students weren’t simply happy to be on summer break, but to have survived. The Spotlight covered all of the traumatic events and pledged to provide the student body with accurate, efficient information. 

The lasting effects of East’s unsafe environment last year have resulted in a lawsuit. East deans who have since parted from the school, Jerald "Wayne" Mason and Eric Sinclair, who were victims of the shooting, announced their intent to sue in early March. The Denverite explains that “both notices of intent cite ‘negligence, recklessness, and willful and wanton conduct’ on the part of the district, school board, and East High School.” More specifically, “The notices allege that several DPS employees, including assistant principal Shawne M. Anderson, principal Terita Walker, three other student safety coordinators, DPS Superintendent Alex Marrero, and district board members, failed to follow proper protocols for conducting threat assessments, and failed to initiate reasonable safety plan protocols to protect staff from foreseeable harm.” One thing was made abundantly clear after the shootings in 2023: East needs to implement serious and effective safety measures. 

East junior Mattison Nunez depicts the various safety protocols put in place since last year's events in an article written for The Denver Post on March 12, 2024. “At East there are two permanent Student Resource Officers, or SROs: Officer Casey Staples and Officer Matt Wolfe, whom many students feel safe around and have built strong relations with. We’ve had zero lockdowns or lockouts this year (only drills). Finally, the adoption of Cherry Creek School District’s Red Bag.” The Red Bags were installed in every classroom at East, each containing a first aid kit and tourniquet, as well as a QR code that would establish a line directly to the DPD. Although, students have noticed that the bags appear half-full and one can’t help but wonder what a single tourniquet and small first aid kit would do in a mass shooting. Granted, the increased safety measures have contributed to a school year free of shootings at East, yet one might wonder if it is a direct result of East’s efforts, or simply a coincidence. 

Requiring students to flash their IDs at the front door of the building is an additional measure East administrators have reinforced since the events of 2023. If students don’t have their ID, they pay ten dollars for a replacement. This policy has been advertised as not only a safety measure but a way to hold students accountable for their tardiness and attendance. If a student is late to two fifth period classes (the period after lunch) in a week, they are required to attend Saturday school. Notably, Senior Tatum Blakesley expresses that there seems to be “more emphasis on attendance and tardiness this year, which is odd considering East’s vocality on prioritizing safety.” The ID policy was originally advertised as a safety method, however, it has since been reframed as an attendance policy. Often, the announcements and weekly Friday update emails contain information on the attendance policy instead of new, perfected safety measures. One might infer that East has put safety on the back burner in comparison to attendance. However, the attendance at East continues to show no improvement and all measures set in place have been discontinued or altered because they were deemed ineffective.

Inherently, every East student will be leaving high school with a great burden; the long-lasting effects of school shootings and general safety apprehension aren’t easy to forget. However, if East students, faculty, and administration have proven anything, it is that the community is resilient. Despite imperfect safety measures and attitudes, East shows great improvement in comparison to the 2023-24 school year. Dismissing the lack of shootings and minimized violence at East would be negligent. One can simply hope for a future student body that is unfamiliar with the trauma, as well as graduated students that move to advocate for gun safety in their futures. 

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