DENVER (CBS4) – The father of the STEM School Highlands Ranch student killed in a shooting in May spoke to the school safety committee on Tuesday. John Castillo called on state leaders to do more with the Safe2Tell program so they can prevent other families from losing loved ones.
“He was an extraordinary individual not just because he was my son,” said John Castillo before the committee. “He was a vibrant mentor and leader in our community.”
Castillo’s son, Kendrick, died trying to save others by stopping one of the shooters at his school. In the past three months, Castillo has traveled across the country to speak about school safety. He shared his thoughts on a variety of topics while speaking to lawmakers during a daylong session at the Capitol.
“Kendrick wasn’t a victim that day, he says it stops with me,” he said.
One of the suggestions Castillo gave lawmakers is increasing the promotion and awareness of the Safe2Tell program. He wants to see celebrities supporting the cause, hoping they would do advertisements for free. He also would get behind using his son’s story and face as a visual to remind everyone of the importance that program can have in preventing another shooting.
“Our focused group has to be so comfortable with being able to let someone know that there’s an issue that we can respond to it,” he said of students in school.
Castillo worries that without bold changes, the problems that allowed shootings in the past will remain in society.
“Whether we’d like to admit it or not, since Columbine there’s always been a ‘next,’” he said.
He also offered some caution to lawmakers not to be too quick to blame one factor over another on the source for these shootings. He believes attention to mental health is important but it cannot always be the reason someone attacks innocent lives.
“I don’t want it to be a shield that perpetrators who commit murder and evil hide behind,” he said.
But just as he called for restraint in one form, he also wants lawmakers to be brave enough to classify these attacks with strong language.
“I feel it’s domestic terrorism and the reason I say that is the reach is broad and wide,” he said.
Castillo pointed out that these shootings at schools or churches require first responders to mobilize in a way that feels like it is a threat to the community and the country. He hopes that everyone involved in school safety will answer the call to action he believes is needed to prevent anyone else from suffering what his family has faced for the last three months.
“We have to be that strong,” he said. “If I can be that strong losing my son, be up here and testify to that, I think our community can try to do the same.”
Students can anonymously report concerns or threats by calling 1-877-542-7233, or downloading the mobile app.
The Safe2Tell website also offers resources and publications for educators, parents and students on everything from sexting to cutting and huffing.