Five Denver students have died from youth violence, and it’s only halfway through the school year. The increase in violence, felt acutely in the far northeast, has students, teachers, and principals fearing how the conflict is showing up in schools and worried about it escalating.
They’re calling on district leaders to do more to keep students safe.
“This year by far has been the most stressful year of my life,” Alessandra Chavira, a senior at Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Early College, told the school board at a recent meeting that opened with a moment of silence for those lost.
“Not because of scholarships. Not because of college applications. Not because of credit requirements. But because I live in a community plagued with gang violence, a community my school resides in. Words can’t explain the anxiety that follows the more-than-occasional lockdowns.”
Several times this year, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Early College has had to bar its doors or ask students to hide from threats. Shurrod Maxey, a restorative justice coordinator at the school, said this year, his second on the job, has been vastly different from his first.
“I don’t get tips about fights and arguments,” Maxey said. “I get tips about students coming to our school from a rival clique or gangs. I get tips that those students may be coming with guns and not afraid to use them. This was not the plan we had coming into our year.”
Denver’s homicide count has been on an upward trend since 2005, though it’s still not as high as in the mid-1990s. But police, city leaders, and gang violence prevention groups are reporting a disturbing trend: Kids as young as 12 years old as both perpetrators and victims of violence.