Racial Justice Organizations Demand Proactive Solutions to School Safety on the 19th Anniversary of Columbine
WASHINGTON – On April 20, 1999, two students in their senior year entered Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado and opened fired, killing 13 people and injuring 24 others. In the 19 years following the tragic shooting, the nation has mourned the loss of over 140 students and educators in school shootings, including those slain in Newtown, Connecticut, and Parkland, Florida. As students and families across the country host vigils, direct actions and participate in the National School Walkout on April 20, youth of color call on states and school districts to invest in effective, proactive solutions to school safety, rather than additional school police and security. Padres & Jóvenes Unidos, a Denver-based, multi-issue organization working for educational equity, racial justice and immigrant rights and Advancement Project, a national racial justice organization, released the following statement:
“We, like the communities in Colorado, mourn the students and educators that were senselessly killed by gun violence,” said Judith Browne Dianis, executive director of Advancement Project’s national office. “It is critical that schools invest in the safety solutions that uplift students and target mental health supports to troubled youth before they turn to violence. In the aftermath of the Columbine shooting, we’ve seen how policing has disproportionately criminalized youth of color. With over 10,000 police in schools across the nation, we have seen referrals to law enforcement and school-based arrests increase, with youth of color being twice as likely to be arrested than their White peers. These strategies funnel students from school into the juvenile justice system and don’t prevent the loss of life. We must continue to look to successful models like those in Denver that are created through synergistic collaborations of students, their advocates, parents, teachers, and school administrators to ensure our children never again experience the trauma of gun violence in school.”
“As students of color, we have armed officers in our schools and they don’t make us feel safe. Their presence intimidates us and criminalizes us,” said Ilene Orgaz, a youth leader with Padres & Jóvenes Unidos. “School is supposed to be a safe environment, but how can we feel safe in a place that feels like prison? If Denver Public Schools has money to arm teachers and place police in schools, then it has money to provide resources like counselors, better facilities, free after-school programs for high school students and free lunch programs for K-12 students. Growing up, I attended after-school programs and I feel like it shaped who I am as a person. These programs should be accessible for all students, because they help youth grow mentally and physically.”
Padres & Jóvenes Unidos has a 25-year history of building the power of predominantly Latino, Chicano and Spanish-speaking parents and youth to create healthy school climates, increase health equity and improve educational and related outcomes in Denver Public Schools and schools statewide.
Advancement Project is a multi-racial civil rights organization. Founded by a team of veteran civil rights lawyers in 1999, Advancement Project was created to develop and inspire community-based solutions based on the same high quality legal analysis and public education campaigns that produced the landmark civil rights victories of earlier eras.