Denver police officers went classroom by classroom at a largely minority high school and asked teenagers for their IDs as they looked for a suspect in a shooting, reported The Associated Press.
Several students spoke out, saying the April 24 search made them feel targeted, disrespected and unsafe.
“We should not be treated like animals that have just run away from a shelter. We should be treated like humans, like students,” said Mary Jimenez, a 17-year-old junior at Rise Up Community School. “Because we are students of color and students of low income, we get harassed and pushed around and we’re expected not to fight back.
“We need our respect and we need answers,” she said to loud applause.
Denver police have launched an internal investigation, Denver Department of Public Safety executive director Troy Riggs said.
“What happened should not have happened,” Denver Public Schools Superintendent Tom Boasberg said.
The search occurred at the small alternative charter school for students ages 16 through 20 who have dropped out of traditional schools or who are at risk of leaving school. Principal Lucas Ketzer said officers looked for the juvenile suspect over his objections, which he said caused students to feel unsafe and intimidated.
Police pushed a teacher away from her classroom after she said she wouldn’t allow them to enter without a warrant and pulled a gun on a teacher who went out a back door looking for students in an alley where they sometimes hang out, he said.
“I have heard the concerns from the community and independent monitor regarding the incident that occurred at the RiseUp Community School, and an administrative investigation was opened this morning to review the incident,” said Riggs, referring to the civilian oversight agency for Denver’s police and sheriff departments.
The principal questioned whether police would have conducted such a search at a school with more affluent students. He said his students commonly report feeling intimidated by police outside of school and that the search showed teachers working to gain their confidence cannot protect them from that.
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