Denver Public Schools new safety chief has experience with youth violence in Aurora

DPS names new director of safety

Students at Denver Public Schools head back to class one week from today and many parents are worried about their children's safety.

Two East High students died in shootings last school year, sparking protests. Then came the reintroduction of School Resource Officers and a new safety plan.

Now, the district has a new director of safety.

Greg Cazzell has only been on the job at DPS for 30 days but he is a 30-year veteran in public safety, who dealt with many of the challenges Denver is facing now during his eight years as head of security at Aurora Public Schools.

Cazzell recalled how ten students from two high schools were shot in one week during November of 2021.

"It was overwhelming... parents are saying, 'what are you doing? What steps are you taking?'" he recalled. 


Cazzell admits he didn't have all the answers but he met with parents anyway.

"Three parent meetings a day at different schools in smaller groups. Every principal had my cell phone 24/7, call me we'll get through this together,'' he said.    

He plans to bring that same openness to DPS.

"I've got a list of those parent groups," he said. 

Those groups have a long list of recommendations for Cazzell and the district. Some of their ideas are already being implemented. 

Cazzell is adding a half dozen violence prevention specialists this year along with 23 armed officers, and 78 unarmed officers.


13 high school campuses will also have school resource officers and there are 21 bullying prevention specialists, including Wes Ogborn.

"It is important to send a clear message that bullying just like other behaviors isn't a part of school culture and can have disciplinary action," said Ogborn. 

He says expelling bullies isn't the answer.

"We expel kids... they're still in our community and if we're not... you know, engaging in a practice or process to help the behavior change I think it's a big disservice to all of us," he said. 


Some parents are also calling for mandatory expulsion for possession of firearms and drugs in schools.

Cazzell says if the courts deem a student safe to be in the public, they are safe to be in public school.

"They may have ankle bracelet on but we are obligated by law to provide an education for that student," he said. 

Under DPS new safety plan, only armed officers will search students for weapons and schools that want weapons detection systems, will be allowed to install them. 


The district is also adding more mental health support by contracting with tele-health therapists, increasing online class offerings, and making social-emotional learning part of everyday curriculum from elementary school to high school.

Cazzell says everyone plays a role in keeping kids safe.

"We have a team in place we need communication... you know, it starts at home... we need, you know... parent involvement," he said. 

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