Parents in the greater Denver area community of Centennial, Colorado are still seeking answers to questions about safety following the December shooting at Arapahoe High School. While by and large they do not fault the school itself for the actions of the shooter, student Karl Pierson, they do fault the school and its policies for failing to effectively communicate with them following the tragedy regarding possible safety concerns that continued after the incident.
Frustrated parents have taken their concerns before the school board, to public meetings and have formed groups on Facebook dedicated to finding the answers that they believe they deserve. Some parents have even gone so far as to withdraw their children from the Littleton Public School District that is home to the school.
Parents say that their concerns stem primarily from the fact that they have not been able to get answers to questions about a conflict involving the shooter and a teacher and debate coach at Arapahoe High School in the greater Denver area, Tracy Murphy, that may have sparked the shooting nor have they been adequately informed about measures the school is taking to resolve any ongoing security risks.
It has been widely reported that Pierson made threats toward Murphy as far back as September and that those threats were reported to the Arapahoe County Sheriff’s Office at the time. It has also been reported that when, on the day of the shooting Pierson came into the school armed, he was specifically seeking Murphy, who was informed of the possible threat and immediately removed from the premises. Parents are reportedly concerned that perhaps the initial threats were not properly addressed and that if they had been, the shooting could possibly have been avoided. According to students, Murphy has not returned to the school since the day of the shooting.Officials from Arapahoe High School and the local school board have refused to comment on the issue or on any questions relating to the shooting at all, saying that the sheriff’s office is continuing its criminal investigation into the matter.
Some parents have suggested that an independent investigation into the school shooting be undertaken, rather than allowing the Arapahoe County Sheriff’s Office to take sole charge. Parents cite a possible conflict of interest within the sheriff’s office as the school resource officer who responded to the shooting and took down the shooter was a deputy sheriff. Third party oversight of security at the school has been suggested. The sheriff’s office has stated, however, that after it has completed its investigation into the shooting and the events leading up to it, they will consult with a third party to review their findings and address safety and security issues going forward.
Some parents say that they feel the school is no safer today than it was before the shooting and they blame poor communication on the part of officials and administrators. They say that the poor communication is an ongoing problem and that as rumors continue to plague events surrounding the shooting at greater Denver’s Arapahoe High School, they simply want answers to their ongoing questions about the incident.
By Michele Wessel
Parents at Arapahoe High School