(NewsNation) — After fighting to remove police officers from public schools, Denver is now reversing course following a second shooting at one school in a matter of weeks.
Wednesday, a 17-year-old student shot and wounded two administrators at East High School near downtown Denver. Authorities say the teen suspect rushed from the scene and was found dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound in the mountains later that night.
According to Denver schools, the administrators who were shot were unarmed. The shooting happened as the teen was undergoing a search, part of a plan that required him to be patted down each day.
Former school resource officer Stacey Collis believes if a school resource officer had been assigned to the school, the shooting could have been prevented.
“This could have been averted had they just simply kept the school resource officers,” Collis told NewsNation host Dan Abrams.
Wednesday’s shooting sparked an uproar among community parents who believe security at East High School has been too lax. Apart from the latest shooting of the administrators, 16-year-old Luis Garcia was recently shot and killed while sitting in a car near the school.
As the former president of the Colorado Association of School Resource Officers, Collis vocally opposed the school board’s decision to remove SROs from the Denver School District.
“I made that argument that they were going to see problems as a result of taking SROs out of the school and having them back on the street. There are no resources that way. They are a part of that school system. They were doing a great job, and it was a wrong decision to pull them out of the schools,” Collis told Abrams.
Denver is one of many schools across the country that phased out school resource officers amid protests over racial injustice after the killing of George Floyd by police. Denver’s school board voted unanimously in 2020 to remove resource officers from schools, citing an “urgent and absolute need to end the school-to-prison pipeline.”
Now, Denver Mayor Michael Hancock calls the removal a “mistake.”
“It’s also time to return School Resource Officers in our schools. Removing them was a mistake and we must move swiftly to correct it. We’re ready to work with DPS, and we all have to step up as a community and be part of the solution,” Hancock said in a statement.
Denver Public Schools Superintendent Alex Marrero said two armed officers will be posted at East High School through the end of the school year and other city high schools will also get an officer.
As for Collis, he says his heart breaks for students feeling unsafe at school.
“The tragedy that happened yesterday, the tragedy with Luis being killed, it really hurts,” Collis told Abrams, later adding: “Those school resource officers are a part of that community. Within the school system that I worked, I was a part of that community. I still am and I retired in 2018. That is my school, that is my community, and I hurt every time something happens within that community.”
From May 2020 to June 2022, Education Week reports that at least 50 school districts serving nearly two million students got rid of school policing programs or slashed their budgets. At least eight schools have since switched back their policies.
Reporting by NewsNation correspondent Evan Lambert and The Associated Press contributed to this report.