Capital Clicks

‘They should have been in school’: Reynolds calls for education system change after East High shooting

By: - March 16, 2022 12:31 pm

Gov. Kim Reynolds held a press conference March 16, 2022 at the Des Moines International Airport. (Photo by Katie Akin/Iowa Capital Dispatch)

In the wake of a Des Moines shooting that left one teenager dead and another two injured, Gov. Kim Reynolds said state leaders should be focusing on improving the education system rather than considering new gun control measures.

“Let’s figure out how we get these kids in school, get them the education that they need and set them up to be successful,” she said. “Not set them up for jail or a life of crime.”

Six teenagers, ranging in age from 14 to 17, have been charged for the murder of Jose Lopez, who was 15. Police say the suspects fired on Lopez and two others outside East High School on March 7.

Reynolds said Wednesday that the situation was “heartbreaking.”

When asked if Iowa should implement new gun control measures, as some Democrats and activists have suggested, Reynolds said the six minors charged with the crime likely accessed their firearms illegally.

“We have laws on the books right now for guns, and those weren’t accessed legally,” Reynolds told reporters.

Police have not released details on how the suspects acquired the firearms, but minors may not independently purchase long guns or handguns in Iowa. 

Reynolds instead advocated for better support within schools to prevent students from dropping out and getting involved in crime. Of the three victims and six suspects, Reynolds said five were not enrolled in school, and four were enrolled but not attending class at the time of the shooting.

“I think the tragedy is our system, our educational system, is letting these kids down,” she said. “They should have been in school. We should be figuring out resources to help them stay there and to help them get an education and a life where they can take care of themselves and their families.”

Reynolds also spoke in support of school resource officers, arguing they build relationships between law enforcement and students. 

“That’s part of understanding what the role of law enforcement is,” she said. “And that’s why law enforcement works extensively within the community to try to build those relationships: To help kids and families understand why they’re there, to keep them and their neighborhoods safe.”

Des Moines Public Schools formally ended its school resource officer program in 2021, citing disproportionate policing of minority students.

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Katie Akin
Katie Akin

Katie Akin is a former Iowa Capital Dispatch reporter. Katie began her career as an intern at PolitiFact, debunking viral fake news and fact-checking state and national politicians. She moved to Iowa in 2019 for a politics internship at the Des Moines Register, where she assisted with Iowa Caucus coverage, multimedia projects and the Register’s Iowa Poll. She became the Register’s retail reporter in early 2020, chronicling the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Central Iowa’s restaurants and retailers.