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Hundreds of students across 6 Denver metro school districts were deemed a threat this school year

Hundreds of students across 6 school districts were deemed a threat
Hundreds of students across 6 school districts were deemed a threat 04:24

From Boulder to Jefferson County to Arapahoe County and in between, data released to The CBS News Colorado Investigators shows there were hundreds of threatening students in classrooms across six different public school districts in the metro area this year. 

Following a shooting at Denver's East High School in March, when a student -- who had been deemed a threat -- shot two deans while they were conducting a pat-down search on him, The Investigators wanted to know how many students were found to be a threat across the district. 

Denver Public Schools says this year, 361 students were assessed for threats in the district and 68 of those students were deemed a "high" threat level. The district also said 84 were deemed a medium threat level, and 13 were designated a "medium/high" threat level.

With a population of over 90,000 students, DPS' rate of total threats per 1,000 students this year is 4 threats per 1,000. The Investigators found while DPS has the highest rate of threats among the districts surveyed, some of the other districts aren't too far behind. 

In Jefferson County Public Schools, with a student population of 69,000, data shows a rate of 3.2 threats per 1,000 students. Jeffco Schools says 221 students had full threat assessments conducted on them, and 43 were categorized as having "proactive attack behaviors," a similar classification for a high threat level. 

Jeffco's data also shows 131 others were labelled as "reactive attack behaviors," similar to a medium level threat. 

In Aurora Public Schools, data shows a rate of 2.8 threats per 1,000 students. APS says 107 students were assessed for threats this year, but the district would not release the levels those threats were classified. 

Boulder Valley Schools would also not release the threat level classifications, but data from that school district shows there were 56 students assessed for threats this school year, a rate of about 1.9 threats per 1,000 students. 

In Adams 12, The Investigators found a rate of 1.8 threats per 1,000 students this year.  Data from Adams 12 shows 65 students assessed for threats this year, and only 10 were a high level of concern. 

In Cherry Creek Schools, school officials conducted 162 threat assessments this year, 27 of those assessments reported a high-level threat, and 71 found a medium level threat. But unlike the numbers in the aforementioned school districts, Cherry Creek Schools emphasized that its numbers are specific to the number of assessments conducted, not the number of individual students assessed, and that in some cases, one student could have received multiple threat assessments this year. 

Most of the school districts mentioned in this story participated in creating a threat assessment guide with the state, which says the response for each student deemed a threat can vary depending on the circumstances, including conducting searches, reviewing classwork, involving law enforcement, appointing a staff escort for the student, providing mental health supports, or suspension or expulsion. 

But the guide says expulsion doesn't necessarily remove the threat, as expulsions can make students feel more isolated and angrier. 

The guide reads, "Several school attacks have been carried out by former students who had been removed."

Read the full guide by clicking here.

The new data comes as a surprise to some. 

"I had no idea, and I feel like that should be more known to kids, because knowing that there's somewhat of a plan in place may be comforting to some," said Emmaliana Proch, 18, a senior at Cherry Creek's Grandview High School in southeast Aurora. "Just hearing that so many kids are constantly being looked at and that at any point, they could be a threat to you? I mean, that's terrifying... it just makes you think, is it worth getting an education in a public space, or should you just go to online school?"

Her mom, Chandra Proch, agrees. 

"It infuriates me that we don't know that these plans are in place, that dangerous kids are still allowed to go to school," Chandra said. 

She would like to see more security measures at schools, like bulletproof safe areas, metal detectors, and more school resource officers. 

"How many school shootings before we do something... what is it going to take?" Chandra said. "I don't understand why we are still grappling with this issue."

While some experts have found more school resource officers don't prevent school shootings, and can instead lead to more kids getting unnecessarily jailed, Emmaliana feels schools should be cracking down on students who are deemed a threat. 

"I think if you are up to that level where you're so high of a threat that you're in that category, you should not be allowed into that school, that district or honestly any public school," Emmaliana said. "They shouldn't be allowed into any place, until they're re-evaluated, get the help they need, and actually get to the point where they are no longer that high of a threat."

One of Emmaliana's final papers this year was about school shootings and safety solutions. She believes schools need to consider offering far more mental health support and classes than what she has seen in place. 

"I gathered data starting in Columbine and forward, and in 2023, there have been more school shootings than days in this year, and you know, we're 150-something days into 2023, and the fact that there have been more school shootings, that's upsetting to hear," she said. "But from my research, I honestly found that mental health plays a really large role in it."

As for a long-term solution to improve school safety, Emmaliana feels collaboration is key, including with the students facing these threats from their peers every day.

"This is a consistent issue that's happened for so many years. We're in the issue, so we need to solve it," Emmaliana said. "It's an active issue that the government, the public, and kids need to solve. It's not just one group or the other, it's everyone."

For this story, The Investigators reached out to the 10 largest school districts in the state for their threat assessment numbers. St. Vrain Valley, Poudre, Douglas County, and Academy District 20 in Colorado Springs all refused to provide their threat assessment numbers for this story. 

Academy 20's reason for denial was because "disclosure would be contrary to the public interest."

The Poudre School District's risk management director said their reason for denial was because "the District does not maintain a record or records of aggregated, deidentified information and does not have a duty to create a record to respond to a request for public records."

Douglas County Schools said it was denying the request, because "the District does not have any records in regard to your request."

Asked if the district conducts threat assessments on students, DougCo Schools said, "our district conducts threat assessments whenever there is a need to determine whether a student is a threat to self or others. When a threat is determined to be credible and imminent, a plan will be developed to keep students and staff safe. The threat assessment documents, however, are not centrally maintained in our student database, such that in response to your question about students who are 'currently flagged for having a threat assessment,' that is not information we maintain."

Experts say this information is public record, and The Investigators will continue to press for it. 

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