May 25, 2024
Denver public schools close for mental health day following shooting of 2 faculty members by a high school student | CNN

Denver public schools close for mental health day following shooting of 2 faculty members by a high school student | CNN



CNN
 — 

Denver Public Schools are closed Friday so students and employees can have a mental health day, the district announced, following a shooting at East High School earlier this week in which a student shot two faculty members before later fatally shooting himself.

The mental health day is intended “to allow us all to take a moment to pause and process the challenging events this year,” including this week’s shooting and a district data breach announced earlier this year, district superintendent Alex Marrero said in a statement.

The shooting broke out Wednesday morning as the suspected shooter, 17-year-old Austin Lyle, was undergoing a required pat down search, Denver Police Chief Ron Thomas said. Lyle was under a school safety plan that mandated him to be searched upon entering the building, he said.

The shooting victims are Eric Sinclair, the school’s dean of culture, and Jerald Mason, a restorative practice coordinator in the dean’s office, a district spokesperson confirmed to CNN.

As of Wednesday, one of the victims was in critical condition, while the other was in stable condition after suffering serious injuries, Thomas said.

Lyle fled the school following the shooting, kicking off a manhunt that ended when he was found dead later that night, police said. He died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound, the Park County coroner’s office said.

Wednesday’s shooting is just the latest gun violence incident students at East High have endured in recent months, including the fatal shooting of 16-year-old student Luis Garcia earlier this year and the shooting death of another student in September, both of which occurred near the school, CNN affiliate KMGH reports. East High was also one of four district schools to receive false threats of violence last month.

Hundreds of Denver Public School students crowded the Colorado state capitol on Thursday to demand gun reform in the wake of the recent shootings, KMGH reported.

“We have to be here because we don’t want this to happen again,” East High student Beckett Nelson Gardner told KMGH. “You don’t want to have to take time out of our school just to not be scared and horrified of what just happened to us.”

There have been at least 18 school shootings so far this year at K-12 schools, colleges and universities, according to a CNN tally, as gun violence continues to invade places of education across the US.

Students from East High School and West High School enter the Colorado State capitol to call for gun control measures on Thursday, March 23, 2023.

The district’s Board of Education unanimously voted on Thursday to temporarily suspend its ban on placing armed school resource officers or other armed security in schools, citing the Wednesday shooting at East High.

The ban will be suspended until June 30, according to the board’s motion, which directed the superintendent to ensure that school staff are not using armed officers to respond to disciplinary issues.

Marrero, the superintendent, said Wednesday that he was “committed” to having two armed police officers stationed at East High School during school hours through the end of the academic year regardless of the official policy.

“I am willing to accept the consequences of my actions,” Marrero said in a letter to the board.

The superintendent said he doesn’t believe the ban on armed officers contributed to the shooting, saying such an officer “would have never patted down that student.”

Denver Mayor Michael Hancock praised the board’s decision in a tweet Thursday after he earlier called the removal of school resource officers “a mistake.” The mayor indicated he would like to see the officers back in district schools.

The board, however, emphasized that the district does not have enough money to indefinitely fund additional armed security and directed Marrero to reach out to Hancock in an effort to “externally fund as many as two armed police officers and as many as two additional mental health professionals” in Denver high schools for the rest of the year.

Denver's East High School after a shooting there on March 22, 2023.

Lyle, who was identified by police as the shooting suspect, underwent mandatory daily pat downs upon entering the school as part of a special school safety plan.

The police chief declined to explain why Lyle was on the plan.

While Lyle was being searched Wednesday morning, a handgun was retrieved and several shots were fired in a school office area, away from other students and staff, Thomas said. The suspect then fled the school.

A multi-agency manhunt ensued, ultimately ending when the Jefferson County SWAT team found Lyle’s body around 8:15 p.m. about 1,000 feet away from his car, Park County Sheriff Tom McGraw said Thursday.

Marrero said he has reached out to Lyle’s parents.

“We all as educators came into this profession to support, help students thrive, and most importantly, provide them an opportunity to succeed,” Marrero said. “I can acknowledge we failed Austin as a district.”

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