Dearest ECOT Parish Family, many friends, our students and student families,

It’s been a week indeed.  After conducting a listening process regarding the recent tragic murder of Jackson Davis, a freshman at Eagle Valley High School, I am deeply concerned about our students, our families of students, and the entire local community as we grapple with what just happened and how to contain any further violence.  Earlier today I partnered with Sheriff James Van Beek to host a quiet ad hoc summit meeting at the Edwards Chapel.  20 stakeholder leaders representing all Eagle County law enforcement agencies, the Eagle County School Board, the Battle Mountain High School Counseling Office, Your Hope Center (an amazing 24-hour, 365-day immediate response/clinical support/behavioral health agency), Youth Power 365, My Future Pathways, Vida Foundation USA, Battle Mountain and Eagle Valley Soccer teams, Gracious Savior Lutheran Church, Vida Nueva Christian Center, Saint Clare’s Catholic Community’s Latino congregation and ECOT all gathered to evaluate the current moment, share perspectives and resources, provide personal encouragement and strategize effective communal interdiction to lower anxiety and avoid more violence.  As the Eagle County Sheriff Department’s ongoing investigation of Jackson’s murder is open and active, no specific information was offered beyond Sheriff Van Beek’s official updates, available here.  We agreed in advance to report out only specific items we all agreed to and not quote any individual statement.  Here are my takeaways from this very productive gathering, over 2 hours long!

  1. Our school communities and youth community are understandably anxious about this specific tragedy and the potential for further violence but are not yet changing attendance patterns.  Documented inter-school conflict this school year is actually less than the prior year.
  2. This weekend’s proms are going forward as scheduled and as planned.  Our school authorities and law enforcement are coordinating a broad and enhanced security plan to ensure our students enjoy their proms safely both during the official event and afterwards.  There will be a full complement of chaperones, school faculty and event staff at each prom location and numerous law enforcement personnel around both venues, around town and along I-70.  Note to self and to you please no speeding on Saturday afternoon and evening!  They ask all of us to partner with our students to offer safe after-prom gathering locations which are alcohol-free and drug-free.  To a person, each law enforcement professional implored us to implore our parents to get proactively involved with the plans of their students and their friends.  Several participants themselves have high-school aged children attending each prom.  To that end, I am staying up valley at our Vail Chapel Clergy Study on Saturday night until late and then on my phone (970.376.1647) after that at home in Edwards.  If any ECOT prom participant or date or friend needs any rapid pick-up from anywhere, no questions asked, please call me no matter the time!!!  I’ll come get you from anywhere.
  3. The same coordinated security plan will be implemented for all upcoming high school commencement ceremonies.  Our staff and I will be attending these ceremonies as usual.
  4. Your Hope Center 24/7 Help line is our first line of immediate clinical behavioral health and support.  Call them anytime at 970.306.4673 for rapid assistance from licensed clinicians, who also help staff local first responders and the high school counseling departments.  For more information on Your Hope Center see here.
  5. For more information on the variety of mental health student support available from our school district please see here.  A newer resource just coming on-line is Mountain Strong, an initiative of Vail Health and the Eagle Valley Behavioral Health, linking residents to counselors and therapists while offering EAP assistance and scholarship assistance through our local Olivia’s Fund.  I am very excited to see this resource up and running!  Call Mountain Strong at 970.422.3037 or please see here.  To report a confidential and anonymous concern regarding your own safety or the safety of others please contact Safe2Tell Colorado at 1-877-542-SAFE (7233), using the link on the website here, through their mobile app, or by texting S2TCO to 738477
  6. Law Enforcement is grappling with the exponential and instantaneous power of social media to explode every rumor, speculation and innuendo which they then must address, sift through and investigate.  False flags and misinformation waste critical personnel and financial resources just as we need them the most!  To a person they implored the educational and pastoral representatives to encourage students and parents to monitor, curtail or at times eliminate social media participation, especially when information is rapidly being shared which is not accurate, evaluated or from any official source.  They begged us to point students and student families to official information sources to receive accurate information.  They acknowledge these official sources take time to publish and are frustrated they cannot move faster given the universe of constitutional and statutory regulations under which they operate, but to ensure equal justice under the law they must be sure before any formal action.  I know this sounds impossible, but it was a major and consistent feedback for us to discuss with our students.
  7. I was shocked to learn that there is no law prohibiting the filming and distribution of violent acts, and evidently no school official can require students to disclose information from their cell phones.  The law enforcement professionals again are looking for other stakeholders to encourage our youth to discriminate between authentic information and sharing misinformation or videos capturing violent acts.
  8. I am more hopeful after meeting these rock star community stakeholders who deeply care about our students and about us.  We all agreed this gathering was overdue, so we’ll gather again this summer with perhaps more community partners at the table.  I pray Father Mike and I represented you with dignity and accuracy.

Whew.  I know this is a lot of information, but it seems timely so please save this note.  Please join me in prayer for a safe and fun weekend for our prom-goers, and ECOT students….well, you know what I’ll say anyway!  Stay fun and stay safe.  Please also join me in extending gratitude to all our fellow community stakeholders, but perhaps most especially our law enforcement professionals and first responders.  As we visited together, I quickly stopped seeing badges and nametags and began seeing faces of mothers, fathers, coaches, grandparents, uncles, aunts, teachers and friends.  We are all on the same team serving a community we love.  Let’s stay close to our youth right now.

Warmly in our Risen and Guiding Lord,
Brooks +