Denver East students during the December 2014 #HandsUpWalkOut march in solidarity with Ferguson, Mike Brown and Eric Garner.
Denver East students during the December 2014 #HandsUpWalkOut march in solidarity with Ferguson, Mike Brown and Eric Garner.
Occupy Denver Facebook

Denver Student Walkouts Warning: "Multiple Threats of Additional Violence"

Last night, on the eve of planned gun-control-related student walkouts at schools throughout the Denver area and the nation, Adams 12 Five Star Schools superintendent Chris Gdowski sent a letter to parents warning about "a high volume (over 40 at this time) of anonymous Safe2Tell reports...raising safety concerns at each of our five comprehensive high schools (Horizon, Legacy, Mountain Range, Northglenn and Thornton) for tomorrow, March 14, 2018." Gdowski added that "we have been in contact with neighboring school districts in the Denver-metro area and this is consistent with what they are experiencing."

The complete text from the letter is on view below. But, Gdowski concludes, "I am deeply saddened that tomorrow's planned focus on the pervasiveness of violence within our nation's schools has been compromised by multiple threats of additional violence, but hope that this additional information allows you to talk to your child and make informed decisions about tomorrow's activities."

Gdowski's letter recalls the wave of threats and student arrests in the wake of last month's shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, one of the most lethal and shocking events of its type since the attack on Columbine High School in Littleton nearly twenty years ago. On February 22, for example, the Summit County Sheriff's Office revealed that a ten-year-old male student at Green Intermediate School had been arrested for inducing panic because of "threatening words that had been written on a bathroom wall."

Around that same time period, a Jefferson County high school student was taken into custody following a joke gone wrong. He's said to have Snapchatted a gag aimed at an uninvolved male student that read in part, "Im fucking done with all you assholes always making fun of me. The time has come. Dont come to school tomorrow if you want to live."

A post circulated on social media cropped to disguise the identity of the Jeffco high school student pictured.
A post circulated on social media cropped to disguise the identity of the Jeffco high school student pictured.
Facebook

Given the expected high numbers of students expected to participate, plenty of schools have taken a proactive approach. Take the letter to students, parents and community members sent earlier this week by William M. Kohut, principal at the Denver School of the Arts. The document, which can be accessed at the bottom of this post, includes time and route information for DSA students wishing to walk to East High School and the State Capitol; they'll leave class at 8:45 a.m. and begin their trek ten minutes later, accompanied by school staffers and parent volunteers. Kohut adds that "DPS Safety and Security personnel and Denver Police Department officers will also likely be on hand to assist with observing this protest."

In contrast, Adams 12 superintendent Gdowski maintains that "any students leaving school grounds will not be supervised by school or district staff" in his area. He adds that "the overwhelming number of reports that are coming in during this short timeframe will compromise the ability of our district security team, in partnership with local law enforcement, to investigate the credibility of each individual safety concern. It will also make it difficult for the district to provide timely updates to you about any new threats made and any adjustments we make tomorrow morning to planned activities at each school site."

Among the other folks taking part in a walkout is Colorado gubernatorial candidate Mike Johnston, who is scheduled to join students at DSST Byers at 10 a.m. "before facilitating a conversation at 11:20 am on gun control, school safety, and the power of youth activism with the more than 300 students planning to participate in the walkout," according to a release from his campaign. Johnston will also be front and center at a town hall about school violence slated to get underway at 6 p.m. tonight at North High School, 2960 North Speer Boulevard.

By then, we should know if Gdowski's dour warnings were overstated or on point. Click to read the Denver School of the Arts student walkout plan and continue to read the Adams 12 Five Star School letter to parents.

Superintendent Chris Gdowski with students at an Adams 12 Five Star school.
Superintendent Chris Gdowski with students at an Adams 12 Five Star school.
Adams 12 Five Star Schools

Dear Five Star Community,

We are writing to let you know that Adams 12 Five Star Schools has received a high volume (over 40 at this time) of anonymous Safe2Tell reports this evening raising safety concerns at each of our five comprehensive high schools (Horizon, Legacy, Mountain Range, Northglenn and Thornton) for tomorrow, March 14, 2018. We have been in contact with neighboring school districts in the Denver-metro area and this is consistent with what they are experiencing.

We anticipate the number of reports will continue to escalate throughout the evening and into tomorrow morning. The overwhelming number of reports that are coming in during this short timeframe will compromise the ability of our district security team, in partnership with local law enforcement, to investigate the credibility of each individual safety concern. It will also make it difficult for the district to provide timely updates to you about any new threats made and any adjustments we make tomorrow morning to planned activities at each school site.

We encourage parents to have a conversation with their child about tomorrow's events and anything they may have heard or seen on social media about potential safety concerns at their school. We encourage you to determine whether your child will engage in any planned walkout; any parameters on his/her participation; and the need for him/her to immediately report any threats/concerns that come to their attention to a staff member. As you already know, the national school walkout/demonstrations have been largely publicized on social and news media for weeks. When student events occurring outside of the building and/or off campus become highly published, students become vulnerable to the potential actions of individuals with malicious intent.

To ensure the safety of our students, we ask that you partner with us in reminding students that staying inside of the school building is the safest place to be tomorrow. We are working in partnership with local law enforcement to provide additional safety measures for those students staying on school property but who choose to leave the building. The district security team and local law enforcement will not be able to give their full attention to any one school during the day tomorrow. As a reminder, any students leaving school grounds will not be supervised by school or district staff.

I am deeply saddened that tomorrow's planned focus on the pervasiveness of violence within our nation's schools has been compromised by multiple threats of additional violence, but hope that this additional information allows you to talk to your child and make informed decisions about tomorrow's activities.

Sincerely,

Chris Gdowski
Superintendent

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