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Des Moines Public Schools say it will increase security after a fatal shooting on a school campus

Kassidy Arena
Des Moines Public Schools Associate Superintendent Matt Smith (right) said all DMPS high schools will have a revamped comprehensive security protocol including increased security presence around the schools and additional outward-facing cameras.

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Students at East High School in Des Moines are back in class after about two weeks off following the fatal shooting of 15-year-old Jose David Lopez on their campus. Two female students were also injured.

The Des Moines Public School district said it will increase security at all high schools, including adding additional security patrols in their parking lots and the surrounding neighborhoods, as well as more cameras facing outward toward the streets. The patrols consist of both DMPS public safety security and the Des Moines Police Department. DMPS said it is also looking at bus routes and how to increase security at pick-up and drop-off locations.

DMPS Associate Superintendent Matt Smith said he would be remiss if he didn't add one more thing:

“Gun violence is not the problem of Des Moines Public Schools to solve alone," he said. "We are absolutely a part of the solution. And we are asking all of our community members, all of our legislators, to be a part of the solution with us.”

He emphasized gun violence is not only seen within DMPS, Des Moines or Iowa, rather it's a national issue that needs to continue to be addressed.

Smith said the school district will announce a series of roundtable discussions in the next few days so communities can have the opportunity to bring their own ideas and solutions. He did not yet know exactly how many new cameras the district will acquire, since the district needs to determine which locations are most beneficial. The new cameras will also have increased depth perception and capacity for clearer images.

"These children deserve nothing less than the very best we got as a community. They need us to come together," Smith added. "They need us to come to the table for them, with them, in service of their education, of their lives, of their future. And they deserve that from us."

Kassidy Arena
East High School Principal Jill Versteeg (right) stands with two East High students at a press conference before the first day back at school after a fatal shooting on the school's campus.

East High School Principal Jill Versteeg said the school also continues its support systems like grief counseling. In the weeks off of school, which included spring break, East High was open to students and staff for opportunities to heal. The school provided art therapy, puppy therapy and a general safe space for students and staff to meet together. Grief counseling will continue to be available within the school.

"Even in these very dark moments, we find hope. And that hope for me comes from our community, and our students and our families and the teachers of the school. The phrase ‘Scarlet Strong’ has been more than just a couple of words, it's been the way for so many people to unite in rally right now," Versteeg said.

All speakers, which included two East High students, said they have noticed the tragedy has brought the school and local community together. Smith said he was proud of the outpouring of support the school has seen from outside community organizations like advocacy organizations Urban Dreams and Al Éxito and from local police.

Although the young man killed on campus was not currently enrolled with DMPS, Smith said he had been a student since the beginning of the 15-year-old's educational career.

"Once a student in Des Moines Public Schools, always a student, whether you are enrolled currently or not," he said.

The diverse school district also continues to work on expanding communication with non-English speakers and across cultural differences.

"This is a fully inclusive effort to make sure that we have everybody represented at the table. So that we come to some common understanding and some common beliefs around what we can do more of to better serve our children," Smith said.

Correction: A previous version of this story referred to Matt Smith as assistant superintendent.

Kassidy was a reporter based in Des Moines