DPS students to lawmakers, administrators on gun violence: ‘Please, I’m begging you, make a change.’

A Denver Public Schools seventh-grader reads to a community gathering on May 29, 2019 from a last will and testament she wrote in her cellphone notes after a recent lockdown at her middle school. (Photo by Grace Carson)
A Denver Public Schools seventh-grader reads to a community gathering on May 29, 2019 from a last will and testament she wrote in her cellphone notes after a recent lockdown at her middle school. (Photo by Grace Carson)

The girl, a seventh grader, tiny in an oversized red T-shirt, her hair pulled back into a bun, stood before a group of adults she did not know, pulled out her cell phone and said, “So, this is my will.”

“[My best friend] Blake,” she read with her voice shaking, “gets $200, and my best wish is that she gets to become a professional soccer player.”

The girl, whose name was Ellie, said her mom had discovered her will in the notes of her cell phone after her middle school’s last school lockdown. She recalled telling her mom: I wrote it in case I am ever killed in a school shooting.

The crowd around her, about 50 people, most of them adults, listened in emotional silence. A woman clenched her chest and tears rolled down her face. Among those listening was a panel of state lawmakers and Denver Public Schools’ board members and administrators. All gathered in the wake of this month’s STEM school shooting and the subsequent student anger when a memorial took on political overtones. They said they wanted to hear directly from students about how gun violence affects them and how they want state lawmakers and DPS administrators to respond.

“Here in Colorado, in the state where Columbine happened, we live in a constant state of fear,” said moderator Erica Meltzer, Colorado bureau chief at Chalkbeat, a nonprofit news site focusing on education. The event was organized and sponsored by Denver Inter-Neighborhood Cooperation (INC), a volunteer nonprofit coalition of Denver’s neighborhoods. 

“Going to school afraid something bad is going to happen shouldn’t be a worry to students,” Gabby Rhodes, a DPS high school senior, told the audience. “The fact that one person is able to get a gun as easily as I am able to say ‘hello’ should be a concern.”

The STEM shooting, in which two students shot and killed one student and wounded eight others, happened on May 7th. Just a little more than two weeks earlier, schools throughout the state were locked down after law enforcement said a Florida teen infatuated with the Columbine High School mass shooting had come to Colorado and purchased a gun. The 18-year-old woman was able to buy a shotgun when she arrived because the state has no waiting periods for long guns. (Florida imposes a three-day waiting period.) She killed herself near a campground west of Denver.

“Please, I’m begging you, make a change,” Rhodes said. “I shouldn’t have to worry about whether I will see my sister when I get home. Please help us live to get older.”

Five students, all from DPS, addressed the panel. STEM students were also invited, but declined, organizers said. The students asked the panel of lawmakers and district officials for faster and clearer communication about gun violence incidents happening on their campuses,  a special student advisory board for legislators at the state Capitol and more mental health awareness and services in schools and in the Denver community, among other things.

The danger does not always come from outside the school or from fellow students, Charlie Jones, a 2018 DPS graduate who is African American, told the panel. “It was on my way home from school that I was worried about being shot… Gun violence is an everyday reality for my community.”

Recent Denver Public Schools graduate Charlie Jones tells a panel of lawmakers and district officials that adding more school resource officers is not a solution to school shootings. It creates its own problems, he said at the gathering May 29, 2019 in Denver. (Photo by Grace Carson)
Recent Denver Public Schools graduate Charlie Jones tells a panel of lawmakers and district officials that adding more school resource officers is not a solution to school shootings. It creates its own problems, he said at the gathering May 29, 2019 in Denver. (Photo by Grace Carson)

Jones criticized his school’s response to the threat of gun violence with greater reliance on school resource officers—uniformed police who are assigned to schools. That response contributes to the school-to-prison pipeline, he said.

“We don’t need more officers in black and brown schools when it’s not black and brown schools that are being shot, it’s suburban schools,” Jones said. “These students deal with police on a day-to-day basis, and they don’t need to come to school to deal with more officers.”

Amy Duclos, an organizer of the event and the education chair for INC, said that the town hall came together after a conversation with her teenage son and his friend about the lockdowns happening in their schools during the STEM school shooting. She said she was taken aback by her sons’ anger and assertion that their schools weren’t listening to them or doing anything to protect them.

“We’re making decisions for these kids, but they don’t have a seat at the table,” Duclos said

Hazel Gibson, the co-organizer for the event and a former Democratic state senate candidate, said that it was in talking to Duclos’ son that she realized the students being affected by school shootings were missing from the conversation. “I thought maybe they have the answers that we’re looking for.”

Lawmakers promised a list of action items, including working to advocate for better mental health support in schools, creating safer school campuses without criminalizing black and Latino students, and ensuring students are a part of the conversation about gun policy.

Maggie, a DPS junior, asked the panel of Denver representatives and leaders, “Are you willing to go to lengths for this issue?” One by one, each answered “yes.”

Students “are living this fear everyday,” Duclos said after the gathering. Their voices, she added, must be front and center moving forward.

36 COMMENTS

  1. OK Unenforceable “Universal” back check OK got that

    Unenforceable “Hi cap ” mag ban? OK got that too!
    “Assault” weapons ban Denver has that too !

    What else did your “Teacher” tell you to beg for ? Pay raise Increased PERA taxpayer contributions?

  2. I’m sorry, legislation should be based on facts, not emotions. Should we force anti abortion laws because some young adult comes forth with a sob story of their personal fears and experiences ??? Of course not. This is nothing more than “political theater” and both sides use it. It’s disgusting. I’ll vote against all gun control legislation based off of this usery. Similar incident just took place as hundreds, felt like I do, and walked out, turning their backs on Bloomberg’s gun control groups using a memorial service to push their agenda. No room for this type of BS

  3. Never mind how ineffective and useless are demands are, just look at this cute kid we found! How can you say no to such a cute kid!

    Here’s a tip for you gun-grabbers…. If you require appeals to emotion and cute kids to make your case then there is something seriously wrong with the case you are trying to make.

  4. Tthis abuse of using children including the infamous Parkland players , silencing consevative children in our schools and higher education is becoming a goto for unconstitutional anti gun teachers as well as other groups in our schools.

  5. So glad to hear that lawmakers and policy makers are finally starting to take the ones who are affected the most — The CHILDREN– seriously and bring them into the conversation. We have had enough of using the 2nd amendment as a shield for the gun industry and its lobby. The people who are against gun control haven’t seen their kids get shot up while sitting in a school classroom. We need sanity to prevail in our state and in our country. Gun Reform and Safety of school children ought to be Number ONE on lawmakers’ list of reforms.

    • Kids are the ones affected? I’m so sorry your brain has completely failed you!! We have 46 million kids in over 100,000 schools. While ANY school massacre is a terrible tragedy I can’t comprehend if I was a parent of a victim, it is VERY RARE. In contrast, ICE reports nearly 2,000 murder convictions caused by illegals in our country. Those are just the murderers that got caught!!! About 1,700 kids are killed as a result of drunk drivers every year. So, why are we abusing these kids to be so fearful? They are far more likely to die drowning in the ocean. They are far more likely to die in a house fire. They are far more likely to die on a playground.

  6. What happened in this country that now makes people so proud to wear ignorance like a badge, like Buck, Drew and Chip do ? It’s downright shameful…

    • Name calling solves nothing The issue I was making that the gun control “magic bullets” are already law in Colo. Nothing less than confiscation and imprisonment for non compliance will satisfy people like you. Just be honest enough to say so.

        • I did not mean to infer an insult. This “Agenda” reporting article is offensive from the stand point of using children to further it.My firearm ownership is no threat to you and no gun I own has ever hurt anyone., I believe that you would like to have further restrictions placed on myself and others like me .Am I incorrect?
          Again my apologies if I insulted you.

          • I am a gun owner and a deer hunter. I believe restrictions on firearms that can kill multiple people within a few seconds are appropriate.

    • Fighting for ones rights and knowing the actual reality of gun violence is not ignorant it’s the poliicans and the news media that actually spread ignorance.

    • ‘…like Buck, Drew and Chip do ?’

      You hit enter too soon. The part where you tell me what part I got wrong got cut off.

  7. Dialogue:
    done in the voice of Inspector Clouseau
    “The old I am a Deer hunter ploy ” That’s cool do like I do sneak up on them , jump on their back ,stay on for eight seconds.

    • When encountering someone who is a hunter and also is pro gun control Buck you and RWNJ’s do the same thing you do with every other issue. ” well, I still don’t believe it ! ” Remain stubbornly ignorant in spite of all the facts, because that’ll really own the libs. You can bury your head back in the sand now…

      Oh, and I really dug your racist comment about Hancock a few days ago before it was taken down. You’re a real class act buddy.

      • The Denver sugar comment? What was racist? Thanks for the name calling you can,t help yourself can you?. Ignorant RWNJ”S head in sand and the like. I did not use insults to talk with you did i?. We are still waiting to hear your solutions? Do you think the 15-20 million AR and AK rifles sold since Bath house Barry was in office will be surrendered peacefully? Think about it..

        • No, the Dindu Nuttin comment Buck. You insult black people, I insult you. See how that works ? ” Bath House Barry ? Really ? So the owners of the 15 and 20 million AR and AK rifles are going to take a stand against the US government ? Because that’s always gone well…

          Damn dude. Get a grip.

          • Any handgun and most rifles and shotguns can kill multiple people in a few seconds. Criminals will always find a way to do whatever they want. Laws only affect those who choose to follow our Laws. Why is this concept always lost on you gun grabbers ?

  8. As Chip has noted, many gun fetishists’ motivations come down the tinfoil hat notion that somehow their assault rifles are necessary for the inevitable civil war that will arise because dems can’t be allowed to be in power for the long term, no matter what the demographics show.

    That scary stupid.

    High capacity bookshelves, not high capacity mags are what you yokels need.

    • “..That scary stupid.”

      No. What is scary stupid is someone like you thinking that disarming good people somehow protects good people.

      “…High capacity bookshelves”
      I have standard capacity bookshelves because the high-cap ones are ugly.

      “…, not high capacity mags”

      Or what everyone who -isn’t- trying to push a political agenda calls standard capacity. It came out of the factory with a 30 round magazine so trying to call that anything other than standard just shows how little you understand about what you are trying to legislate.

      “… are what you yokels need.”

      And there it is. There is the slip of the mask. There is where you ‘other’ those who disagree with you. We gun owners couldn’t possibly be as smart as you, as enlightened as you, as well educated, or good looking, or whatever standard you want to try and use. It shows your arrogance, your elitism, and to be perfectly honest…. how evil and morally bankrupt you are. You know nothing about me other than I disagree with you regarding firearms. But that is all you need to judge me, isn’t it. I am not part of your tribe so you have to cast stones to drive me out. You can’t have people like me in your tribe because I am the proof that your ideas are wrong. If I am allowed in, then everyone else will see your ideas are wrong too and you can’t have that. Your power is based on the lie that people like me are somehow the problem. If people are allowed to think for themselves, allows to see that I shop at the same markets, go to the same theaters, attend the same churches, be a part of the same community and do it all while armed and cause zero problems…. well that ends your argument right there. That is the end of your power because your lie will have been revealed.

      Keep throwing the stones, you will eventually run out of them. And I will still be there. And your lie will eventually be revealed.

  9. Nothing like having kids as props to move one’s agenda. We have enough gun laws as it is now, and it is not stopping the shootings, just ask Chicago who tried to legislate their way out. Besides that, they are kids, not adults, and the adults need to respect other laws governing the guns laws that already exist like the second amendment. I am not buying into all of this emotional rescue stuff, that the left like to heap on a already screwy situation. I grew up and no school shootings existed, we sharpened knives in shop classes, took the bullies behind the high school for some character building(and knocked out teeth), had guns on gun tracks to go hunting sfter school, and we had no problems, what changed, too many limp-wristed television shows, video games, and the wussification of America.

  10. I have no idea what you’re babbling about…I don’t speak conspiracy theory.

    I can tell you that it appears junior high was tough on you, but an assault rifle is not your ticket to a seat at the cool kids’ table.

    I’ll say it again…you rubes need fewer suppressors, more professors. Less time at gun shows and more time with chess foes.

    • “…I can tell you that it appears junior high was tough on you”

      Proof positive that you don’t actually have anyway to support your side of this debate. The error of your ideas is pointed out and you respond not by bringing the better argument but instead you bring the insults.

      Shame, really. You missed an opportunity to improve your ideas and squandered it instead on childish insults.

  11. Ok but try a book club instead of a gun club.

    How many mass shootings has Australia had this year?

    What do they call the definition of insanity?

    • “…How many mass shootings”

      The fact your argument requires you to focus on a single and very ill-defined type of crime demonstrates the weakness of your argument.

      You don’t care about people getting murdered, you only care about the murders you can politicize.

      • We can’t call mass shootings mass shootings anymore? What would you prefer, Second Amendment Festivals?

        Hey did you see they had another Second Amendment Festival in Virginia the other day? Good times.

        How many fully automatic weapons have been used in Second Amendment Festivals since the federal gov’t made it a mandatory 20 years for owning an altered sear?

        How many suppressed guns were used in Second Amendment Festivals before the recent deregulations?

        • “…We can’t call mass shootings mass shootings anymore?”

          Please define “Mass Shooting.”

          I don’t mean in media terms or emotional terms, I mean in actual legal terms. I mean in terms the FBI would agree to so they could be reported in the UCR every year.

          Words have meaning, you don’t get to make them as you go along and expect the rest of us to agree just because you want it to be so.

          • You can call them anything you like, just don’t forget to send your thoughts and prayers.

            Freedom Parties?

            Liberty Dances?

            America First Fun Functions?

          • “..You can call them anything you like”

            I think I will stick with the term “Murder.”

            And in this specific case under discussion we can call it “Mass Murder.”

            But I don’t have an agenda to push so such a simple term will probably be unacceptable to someone like you. It elicits an emotion, but can’t be politicized.

            There is the linguistic advantage that everyone pretty much understands the word and it means legally the same thing it means in concept, the taking of someone’s life without cause.

            You can keep making up fancy terms and slogans all you want but it just makes you look like an idiot who is making light of the murder of 12 people.

  12. And here I thought making light of yet another NRA Fun Run was sticking your head in the sand and refusing to have an intellectually honest conversation about your fetish for your authentic Johnson Surrogate Toys complete with extend mags and “mass murder” mufflers.

    Duly noted.

    • “..And here I thought making light of ”

      You are making light of murder. It seriously undermines your argument.

      Except you don’t really have an argument so I guess since you’ve got nothing else then go for it. Tap-dance on those graves all you want. Wave the bloody shirt too. And don’t forget to put the kids right up front, make sure the camera’s get a good shot of them.

  13. And yet we’re the bad guys for letting kids express how tired they are of gun violence in their schools, while you all are the good guys, who refuse to concede anything to stop the killing because you really need to hold onto that AR-15 because its neat. I guess in your world it’s better to let kids be killed than to speak out.

  14. “.. who refuse to concede anything to stop the killing”

    I didn’t do any of the killing so why should i have to concede anything?

    Lets test this idea of yours about concessions…… We firearm owners will completely give up suppressors (you erronously call them silencers), bump-stocks, and the shoulder-thingy-that-goes-up. We will give them to you, physically and without recompense. You will, in return, remove all the Gun-Free-Zones that are on any public property anywhere.

    If you won’t accept this deal, why not?

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