There’s some good news coming from city hall and the State Capitol in how Aurora, Denver and much of the state are going to stop teens and young adults from killing and maiming each other with guns.
Gov. Jared Polis and lawmakers from both parties agree youth violence has become so bad, and so widespread, that the state must step in and step up with the most important thing the Legislature can offer, money.
Likewise, Denver and Aurora city councils have wisely agreed that youth violence and shootings cross those two cities’ boundaries every single day. Because of that, a nascent regional effort to better understand the problem and treat the problem has a real chance in making a difference in a crisis here, across the state and across the nation.
The plague of shootings and lawlessness among teens and young adults is astonishingly widespread, deadly, pervasive and growing.
While there have actually been some bi-partisan agreement in Aurora and at the state level, Job One for lawmakers must be to avoid and call out mistakenly blaming the problem on politics.
Violence and especially gun violence is a growing problem in cities and states run by liberals and conservatives alike.
The Aurora-Denver reorganized Youth Violence Prevention Program is taking shape in promising ways. It is moving millions of dollars into projects that seek to ensure accurate, meaningful data is collected about Aurora children and that programs addressing problems are data-based.
But the YVPP effort has two fatal flaws, regularly overlooked when addressing community problems that affect troubled kids and families: schools and guns.
Everyone agrees that much of the problem in Aurora and Denver has to do with how shockingly cheap and easy it is for kids to get guns and ammunition. So-called “ghost guns,” chat-room sales and thousands upon thousands of guns dangerously unsecured in homes with young kids and teenagers is a major part of the problem that conservative lawmakers refuse to admit or budge on, and liberals lawmakers cower from pressing acting on.
Also, state and local officials give regular lip service to how important it is for schools to be tied into programs that address youth violence and other problems, but these programs are almost always “bolt on” ideas that either involve schools only on a cursory level or plug outside programs into school spaces.
What the state and local programs overlook is that tens of thousands of school employees in the region have a front-row seat to what’s really happening in the lives of kids — every day, in real time. It’s information rarely tapped and often passed over because “experts” know better.
Aurora and Denver schools are in the thick of dealing with troubled kids. The need is great for far more resources. Schools already must provide for children who not only are imminently about to become part of a gun-violence event, but for those whose lives are so disrupted or distraught that their crises comes from far different kinds of violence — just as dangerous and sometimes just as deadly.
While Aurora Public Schools and Cherry Creek schools have stepped up to create more opportunity for kids to get the mental health care they need, it’s not nearly enough.
Schools are the perfect conduit for quality child care for families, who in the real world cannot afford it and cannot afford to stay home.
And schools are the perfect place to start conversations about a true dual-diploma system that is able to launch kids into the world at 17 with a solid, real-world education, an employable skill they like and the chance at further education when, and if, they want it.
For too many generations, millions of people have lost out from an education system that insists one size fits all, and rarely fits anyone.
As many real experts have pointed out, we cannot police or arrest our way out of this complicated and pervasive crisis. We must do more and do something different.
Aurora and Denver efforts are good places to start, but unless schools are tied into the issue and fully funded to provide what’s needed, and until lawmakers address unlimited youth access to firearms, Aurora can expect marginal results, more injuries and more deaths.