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  • Writer's pictureEast Spotlight Newspaper

What You Need to Know About East and District Safety Measures


Starting off the new year, safety remains a key issue for East and the Denver Public Schools district. Compiled is all the safety information from the DPS Board final “Safety Draft” published after last school year, information from East High School’s Assistant Principal of Climate and Safety Brian Edwards, the district's director of Climate and Safety Greg Cazzell, and a district student safety and mental health coordinator Dr. Jane Lineman. Safety decisions in our district are made by the Board of Education of our elected members, then these decisions are interpreted and implemented by the Superintendent with insight and other ideas from subject matter experts like Chief Cazzell and Dr. Lineman.


****For this article I interviewed in-person Mr. Edward and Chief Cazzell. I also interviewed Dr. Lineman over Google Meet. 


School/Building:


SROs:

Chief Cazzell gets a report of the tickets issued from SROs everyday to ensure punitive citations are not the first resort. He explains: “SRO's,they're in our buildings, they're part of our team, but we want to make sure that we're not criminalizing adolescent behavior.” He explains that Denver also started a program called “Alternative to Citation or A.C.T” to make sure that SROs are only issuing citations when necessary. Chief Cazzell gets a report of all citations issued by SROs everyday so he can monitor what behavior is being ticketed.


Working Hours: (Possibly title building hours) - why students are not allowed in the building before 8 am and after 4 pm. 

Working hours for our building are new here at East, Edwards explains the need for them to ensure there are enough staff for the students in the building. Explaining how safety of students can’t be promised if there are not staff there to monitor the halls and building.


Student IDs:

Mr. Edwards describes the need for IDs saying district mandated IDs are color coded by grade to help see if a student should have an off period and should be wandering around or leaving, depending on grade level a student may or may not be able to have an off period. Chief Cazzell and Edwards both note the importance of knowing who is in the building and if they should be there.


Safety Procedures:

The DPS safety plan mentions the Emergency Operations Plan or EOP and the Standard Response Protocol as the student and staff training for emergencies; this is the standard lockdown or lock out information we practice. Chief Cazzell illustrates the value in these highly practiced routines, he says when a high stress event is taking place it’s like a scary movie when the guy is trying to put the key in the ignition but he is shaking too hard. These procedures are supposed to be so comfortable that we are prepared in those situations. The plan also outlines the safety audits of school buildings that are conducted every three years as part of the Crime Prevention through Environmental Design program. Further outlining the student search and arrest protocol along with the interrogation protocol in the JIH policy. Which states that if reasonable suspicion is demonstrated, it becomes  a safety risk that officials are allowed to investigate. This includes searching students' personal effects as well as asking questions about the incident. “Some students may be searched as part of the safety and support measures outlined in an Action and Intervention Plan.”


The School Building:

The Board’s safety plan outlines the possible use of weapons detection units. It explains “The determination of a weapon detection system at a school or district building will be a site-based decision with extensive community engagement” however, does not explain what any of these technologies are or when there will be discussions on whether they will be implemented. With cameras schools can be monitored and checked if there is a safety concern, Chief Cazzell explains “There's 5000 cameras that feed into the dispatch center. They can pull up any school.” Cazzell also explains that along with things like the duress buttons and cameras that he wants to make “sure that we’ve looked at our buildings, that there’s no vulnerabilities.” When there are older buildings he wants to ensure the technology for safety within them is up to date and working properly. East does have a system where doors held open for a while send a signal via email to Edwards in case of a safety risk, however, Edwards notes the challenge of chasing doors as a waste of resources when more productive actions could be happening.


Community:

Mr. Edwards explains the effect that the idea of community responsibility has on the safety of our school. He talks about group and community accountability and culture; will students prop open doors, let people in or say something if they notice something? He further explains that the sharing of information with those surrounding East like rec center. The Safety Plan explains that “High-crime neighborhoods may expose children to violence, which can cause lasting physical, mental, and emotional harm” in an effort to explain their dedication to supporting these students when at school. Chief Cazzell explains that a school does not run in isolation from its environment and outside safety concerns of a building in the surrounding neighborhood affect a school as well.


Behavioral Procedure:

The Safety plan talks about creating a safe and welcoming environment as well. Dr. Lineman points to the Discipline Matrix as well as the Discipline Ladder as the district standard for behavioral procedures. The matrix determines the level of offense (one through six) and recommended response for an action, whether expulsion is recommended, required or neither. The Ladder explains more specific procedures to do after type 1-6 of offense is determined. It outlines practices like restorative conversations and the documentation of such conversations. It also outlines options for suspension such as in-school or out-of-school suspension. Mr. Edwards explains next steps depend on if the student is ready to have a restorative conversation and “come to the table” or not. Suspensions are more likely to happen if the behavioral matrix/ladder recommends so for an incident and if students are willing to work through the problem or not. Mr. Edwards further explains the case by case basis each behavioral situation is taken. He says If there is any violence or weapons “it would trigger a threat appraisal process” which would involve teacher feedback, a teacher, administrator, discipline representative, parent, and social worker or psychologist who would facilitate the meeting. This would determine the risk level and intervention plan. These conversations are where intervention plans such as searches may come up dependent on scenario and situation. Expulsion is pursued, often referring back to the matrix to see if it is recommended, or mandatory. For example possession of a firearm on school grounds results in mandatory expulsion whereas first degree, second degree, and sexual assault falls under the “mandatory review” for expulsion category. Arson, child abuse, hazing, and more falls under “optional review” for expulsion.

Chief Cazzelll explains his interest in bringing over a process he had when working for Aurora Public Schools called Teen Court. He explains the process, “The student, if eligible, goes to the teen court and you know the the attorneys are teens, the judge of the teen, the, the jury as a teen and it's evaluated in that environment prior to actually going to juvenile court.” He says he is “looking forward to trying to work with Denver and the University of Denver to maybe implement a teen court” on something with peer input and that is less serious than juvenile court.


School Placement Options:

Mr. Edwards explains “a lot of people would like to see schools be able to determine what the most appropriate setting is [for the student]... however, without agreement from the family, that transition cannot take place.” Mr. Edwards explains that certain things trigger expulsion but not all concerning behaviors do, the school of record means that often a school can recommend changing schools or educational setting but the family doesn’t always need to comply unless a student is expelled. The safety plan explains the district's effort for students to be in their optimal learning environment and to find alternatives to the juvenile justice system, however, doesn’t outline specifics to this. The juvenile justice system, a court mandated placement that DPS has no control over.


Mental Health:

The safety plan outlines the importance of mental health support for both students and teachers. It also explains that the BESS survey, made to determine the emotional state and wellbeing of students, helps DPS adjust teaching to “targeted and intensive social-emotional and mental health interventions to support our student needs.” Its purpose outlined in the Superintendent comments is to recognize risk or high risk behavior in students. The Superintendent was not available for clarification on what this meant. However, linked is a document with examples of low to higher risk BESS screener responses. Chief Cazzelll explains the desire to “strengthen wrap-around services, mental health support, food insecurities, [and] housing insecurities”, adding “Making sure students who have other challenges in their home life have options to get support.”

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