I am heartbroken and outraged by the ongoing violence in and around Denver schools. As a mom of two kids who attended Denver Public Schools (DPS) and a former Board Member of the DPS Foundation, I believe strongly in the value of public education and understand deeply the role that a great school district plays in a great city. We absolutely must do more as a community to protect our kids and educators.
While we send our prayers for comfort and strength to all of those most directly impacted by the recent violence at East High School, the truth is that this challenge is not isolated to recent high-profile incidents and the harm being inflicted is much greater than our response is recognizing.
We must put every option on the table and act with the urgency our kids deserve to ensure they can focus on learning, not basic safety. Read my community safety policy paper. Below are my priorities around gun violence and youth safety, specifically.
- Demand stronger coordination and better use of the City of Denver’s public safety resources, including Denver Police, in and around schools. Recognizing that each community’s relationship with law enforcement varies, I continue to ask that our School Board allow this decision to be made at the school building (not district) level, and embrace a full partnership between the city and DPS to provide a full range of security resources to all principals.
- Replicate successful efforts in other cities to reduce the number of weapons – particularly illegal guns – on the streets. There are promising initiatives underway in New York City and Los Angeles, in particular. Tactics include, creating a dedicated division of the police department to track and recover weapons, employing more sophisticated use of technology to track guns and holding city-sponsored gun buy-back programs. I value and appreciate the good work of Mayors Against Illegal Guns and would seek to participate in their work and use their platform for peer learning about what’s most effective.
- Partner with other mayors to advocate for stronger gun laws at the state and federal levels. Candidly, municipal level policies to restrict the sale of guns are not particularly effective. However, the Mayor of Denver has a powerful political platform from which to advocate with her peers to change state and federal laws in this regard. In particular, I would actively partner with the Metro Mayors Caucus to impact our state policies and with the US Conference of Mayors to push for federal policy change, in particular, a ban on high-capacity weapons that have no place in non-combat settings. (Read more about the US Conference of Mayors federal gun safety policy priorities here.)
- Through the Mayor’s Office of Children’s Affairs, work to align resources and strengthen programming for our students outside of school hours so kids have safe, engaging and productive opportunities through our libraries, recreation centers and private sector partners (e.g. youth-serving non-profits who offer high quality programming and businesses willing to hire youth as interns and staff). We must acknowledge that the youth violence epidemic is related, at least in part, to social factors such as education, economic opportunity, housing and health care. My administration’s public safety agenda will be as much focused on these drivers of safety as we will be focused on emergency response.
- In partnership with Denver Health, Denver Public Schools, WellPower and private practice clinicians ensure we have adequate health and mental health resources available through school-based health centers and community-based settings, so that kids who experience trauma can access timely, quality supports needed to mitigate its impact.