This story was originally published by Chalkbeat Colorado. More at chalkbeat.org.
Kal-El was in second grade the first time a teacher threatened to call the police on him.
His class was playing outside at recess. The teacher said it was time to go inside, and Kal-El refused. When the teacher made the threat about the police, Kal-El took off running toward the playground fence in an attempt to climb it, said his mother, Jennifer Uebelher.
“This started Kal’s terror of the police,” Uebelher wrote in notes she kept about his school days.
The teacher didn’t end up calling the police that day. But by the end of second grade, school staff had called police on Kal-El three times, according to his mother. By the end of fifth grade in May, the 11-year-old whose parents named him after Superman, who has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and struggles with his behavior, had at least 32 interactions with police or armed security guards at school in Denver and neighboring Jefferson County. Chalkbeat was able to confirm some of the interactions using police and school district records.
“I’ve had nightmares about my mom being shot, me being shot,” Kal-El said recently while sitting in his backyard. “I had nightmares that the police came to the house and kept banging on the doors, and they came in and we had to hide. I’ve had that more than once in a night.
“I’m scared to death because I’m like, ‘What are they going to do to me?’”
In a year in which high-profile incidents of police brutality sparked protests across the nation, schools have been grappling with how police should interact with students. Last summer, in the wake of the murder of George Floyd, a Black man, by a white police officer in Minneapolis, the Denver school board took a step toward reducing those interactions when it voted to remove the 18 city police officers who were stationed at some middle and high schools.