Droves of Denver students skipped class to protest what they say has been the district’s inadequate response to school violence.
Students of Martin Luther King, Jr. Early College, a public high school in Denver Public Schools (DPS) staged the walk-out last week after one of their peers was violently assaulted.
A video aired by Denver 7 news shows the victim being punched and kicked by four other students. The victim’s mother, Jeanette Lara, said it was a case of mistaken identity.
“He was just standing outside with his friends,” Lara told Denver 7. “He was just telling them, ‘No, you’ve got the wrong person. You’ve got the wrong person.’ Because they were looking for somebody.”
According to another student, a school resource officer (SRO) was present but wasn’t able to prevent the attack on Lara’s son.
“She was the only [officer] out there,” explained junior Journey Horton. “She tried to call for backup, but no one else was able to come. She did what she could, but there were four boys, and there’s only so much she can do.”
Freshman Oscar Lupian said DPS doesn’t take a strong enough approach to discipline.
“The district has to do something about it, not just standing around and suspending them for a couple of days and coming back to school,” said Lupian.
The victim’s family accused DPS of ignoring the situation.
“We haven’t heard anything,” Lara continued. “Not even, ‘Hey, how’s he doing?’”
“They haven’t reached out. I feel like they don’t care,” added the victim’s aunt, Cynthia Lara. “It’s not the first time something like this has happened. Nothing changes.”
A DPS spokesperson told CBS News that the district is “committed to ensuring that our students have a safe environment from which to learn every day.
“While it is hard to hear that some of our students don’t feel safe, it is vital that we honor their voices, and learn more about their concerns.”
One DPS principal was even fired simply for bringing up his own safety concerns.
Now, students are taking matters into their own hands.
“We want more. We need more. I mean, how many DPS schools have been attacked by violence?” asked student Michelle Valenzuela. “A kid died in a DPS school and nothing is being done about it.”