A full report and executive summary of the input from the community conversations and survey conducted last spring are available below as a PDF.

Click here for the full report

Click here for the executive summary

When a tragedy occurs, responses often look in two directions. One is to the past, and what lessons could be learned. The other is to the future, and what can be done better.

When a shooting occurred last spring on the edge of East High School’s campus – leaving one teenager dead and two students injured – Des Moines Public Schools began a process to look ahead at how to do more to create safe, healing schools and communities. That work continues, including an opportunity later this month for the community to re-engage on this issue.

“On March 7, we had an immediate obligation to care for the students and staff at East High, to make sure they felt safe and their needs were being met after a tragic event that has been repeated far too often around our country,” said interim superintendent Matt Smith. “But, we also had an obligation to engage our community in helping to find solutions for a problem that extends well beyond our schools. This work is making a difference in considering new and better approaches, and creating an understanding that this is truly a community-wide concern.”

Accordingly, DMPS, working with Iowa Aces 360, launched an initiative that involved hundreds of people – parent, students, teachers and staff, and community members – in the sharing of ideas and questions about this important topic. A series of five community conversations, one at each high school, were held in April and May for participants to better understand the role the community could play in ensuring student safety and well-being. An online survey was conducted to consider solutions that could prevent and mitigate the impact of trauma in the future. And a “talking wall” provided students an opportunity to weigh in on safety, belonging, health and well-being, and family and community engagement at their schools.

From those three sources, five themes emerged of where DMPS and the community should focus efforts to promote the environments students defined. Those themes are:

  • Student well-being & belonging
  • Communication and policy implementation
  • Investment
  • Relationship
  • Security/Safety

NOTE: An executive summary as well as the full report from this process is available for download in the box to the upper right.

“This is helping guide us in finding ways to improve our work and has led to several efforts already underway,” noted Jake Troja, director of school climate at DMPS. “Efforts such as this cannot be one-and-done but must be an on-going dialogue to help us continually improve in our support of safer schools and a safer community.”

A number of efforts already underway at DMPS have resulted from this work. Some examples include:

  • School Advisory Councils are in place at all high schools and being developed at the remaining schools;
  • Software is being installed on student-issued computers to monitor for self-harm;
  • Health and Well-Being teams have been established at each school to focus on immediate responses to crisis;
  • Forty-six school-based therapists are in place with work underway to fill additional positions;
  • An additional 12 campus monitors are being added to those currently in place at schools;
  • The DMPS Public Safety staff is being increased from 11 to 16;
  • Technology – including key card access, visitor management systems, and more than 2,000 cameras – is being expanded and upgraded for effectiveness.

DMPS is pleased to invite the community to come together again to hear about and discuss the information gathered from the work noted above, the steps DMPS have taken since then, and what we have planned next. Five more community conversations will again be held at each high school:

  • East: December 7 –6:00 to 8:00 PM
  • North: December 8 –5:30 to 7:30 PM
  • Roosevelt: December 12 –5:00 to 7:00 PM
  • Lincoln: December 14 – 5:30 to 7:30 PM
  • Hoover: December 15 –5:00 to 7:00 PM


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