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144 high-level threats flagged in Denver schools this year, an increase from last year, CBS News Colorado investigation finds

144 high-level threats flagged in Denver schools this year, an increase from last year
144 high-level threats flagged in Denver schools this year, an increase from last year 02:20

The Investigators with CBS News Colorado have obtained new data showing just how many threats were in Denver Public Schools this year.


Staff identified 486 threats made by students across all DPS schools this year, which is an increase of 125 more threats this school year than last year. Click here to see last school year's threat numbers

According to DPS data, 144 of those total identified threats were considered high-level threats – 50 more high-level threats made by students than last year. 


This, as The Investigators have also obtained a copy of the final report of a survey study conducted last spring by an independent contractor DPS hired to examine safety issues in schools and the best recommendations to fix them. DPS paid $24,000 for the study, which surveyed several principals of Denver schools.

Sources tell CBS News Colorado the district has largely ignored the recommendations from the study, which was conducted by PrincipalEd Consulting, a company led by the now Denver school board member, John Younquist. 

Months ago, DPS refused to release the full report, citing attorney-client privilege, but did release the draft report

Click here to see Younquist's comments about the draft report. 

CBS News Colorado recently obtained a copy of the final report from sources. To read it, scroll to the bottom of this article. 

The final report lays out dozens of problems about relaxed discipline policies in the district, which principals said "increased" violent student behaviors, because students have "the confidence" they can get away with it with no repercussions. 

It also says "gang affiliation and related behaviors are rising in a number of schools, and the district does not provide resources to support school staff with the issues that are associated with this challenge."

PrincipalEd consulting laid out several recommendations, including an external review of all alternative and "Pathway" schools, a restructure of several district administrative offices, an overhaul of DPS discipline policies, and a creation of a team of behavioral consultants at each school site to help provide support to staff when dealing with students who have made high-level threats. 

But despite the increase in high-level threats this school year, sources tell CBS News Colorado the district has failed to make any substantial changes that would help. 


Some critics feel the district needs to do much more work to identify the best ways to utilize Pathway schools for students who need more oversight or support, adding that there's a lot of confusion right now around the value these schools could provide. 

A spokesperson for DPS admitted that a review of Pathway schools is not underway, but said, "we have a school that is meeting the needs of our students who are serving an expulsion from another school. The class sizes are smaller to provide better oversight and the students are able to continue their education while receiving the wraparound support that they need."

While a team from DPS went to Harvard last year to review potential discipline policy changes, still no changes to the discipline matrix have been made. A proposal from the team should be released this summer. 

Sources close to the district tell CBS News Colorado the revisions to the discipline matrix should not have taken this long, and that sometimes, DPS staff are still being asked to conduct pat down searches on students who have made threats. 


A DPS spokesperson said in a written statement that only school security guards are conducting the searches; "anytime that the search procedure is because of a student's history with a weapon, a trained and uniformed member of the DPS Department of Climate and Safety conducts that search."

But sources tell CBS Colorado that security guards are not always available. 

The alleged lack of progress is something that has many DPS parents upset. 

"It's ludicrous," said Christine Muggleton, whose son attended DPS his entire childhood. "We've learned nothing. We're going to do nothing about it, so history may be doomed to repeat itself. I hope never in this lifetime does that happen again, but why are we not addressing the problems that we've seen, that have landed people in situations that they should never have found themselves in, in the first place."

Muggleton pulled her son out of East High School last year after two shootings at the school, including a shooting in which two deans were shot while conducting a pat-down search on a student who had been flagged as a threat. 

Muggleton and her son were already considering moving to Wisconsin to live closer to family, but didn't have a set date yet. 

Muggleton says the shootings at East made her decision to leave much easier. 

"I said, I'm not weighing the pros and cons. We're out, we're just done," Muggleton recalled. "I'm unenrolling you."

She's not alone, state education data shows East High School saw a drop of 188 students by the start of the 2023-24 school year, following last year's shootings, which was the largest drop in enrollment at East in at least 10 years. 


Muggleton worries for her friends who still have children attending schools in the district. 

"It is not safe for the students," Muggleton said. 

DPS says it has made improvements, offering the following written statement:

"Since the start of the school year, Denver Public Schools has made big strides in the ways that we provide a safe learning and working environment for our students and staff. This has included the completion of building safety assessments for all of our school buildings, the formal return of school resource officers, the ongoing work of the discipline matrix which will be completed this summer, and improved emergency response training for our staff members. This work is detailed as a part of Dr. Marrero's State of the District message that was shared in February. Not included in that list is much improved mental health support for our students and staff and better staff training and awareness for action intervention plans for students. Safety is an ever-evolving process and DPS is dedicated to continual improvements in school safety."

Asked to elaborate on the mental health improvements, a DPS spokesperson said, "we have improved our screening tool and process to better assess when a student could be heading towards a mental health crisis before it happens. We now provide trauma-specific mental health support that can focus on a specific issue that a student may be dealing with. Finally, we are providing better access to support through a free online mental health professional. This service is available for staff, students, and their family."

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