1-year anniversary of the East High School shooting

Take a look into the changes that have been made around East High School since the shooting.


Beverly Gillard

Over 40 shots were fired in the East High School’s student parking lot, on Monday March 7, 2022, at 2:47 p.m., leaving two former East High students, Kemery Ortega and Jessica Lopez-Torres injured. While another former East High student, Jose David Lopez was killed in the gun fire. Since the shooting, students and staff are left wondering what exactly has changed over the year. Here are Principal Jill Versteeg’s thoughts one year after the shooting.  

Why do you think school shootings are increasing? What possible solutions would you suggest? 

The rise in school shootings across the state is caused by a variety of reasons. Young people’s emotional health is one of them. East High School is incredibly fortunate to have six counselors and school-based therapists, but it’s not enough to meet the needs of students and families. There needs to be more resources to support the youth to be involved in activities at younger ages and make them accessible for families. Research suggests that the more students are engaged in activities, their communities and within their schools, less violence occurs. 

What steps have been taken to prevent this from happening again? 

Many steps have been taken to prevent this from happening again. District safety teams continue to review data and determine safety protocols. More cameras were added around the school, and public safety is in the building and parking lot often. DMPD has also partnered with East and the district more about having more awareness in the community when events occur and steps, we might need to take to keep the school safe. “Buildings are also getting emergency radios that will be direct patch to 911 dispatch should an emergency arise,” Versteeg said.  

There needs to be more youth mental health support in Iowa, Des Moines, and across schools.

— Jill Versteeg, East High School Principal

Do you think Students can feel safe at school? 

“More students state they feel safe than don’t. I also can say that is the case because students talk with us a lot about what they see and hear because they trust us and want East to be safe. Also, our engagement in activities has continued to increase this year, which tells me students want to be part of something bigger at school and create an environment that is about excellence,” Versteeg said.  

What would you like to see change around our school? 

“Well, while attendance has improved greatly this year, I’d like to see it improve even more. I also would like to see more school pride shown daily. East is a beautifully diverse school filled with incredible people. We need to highlight the good that happens here and showcase it more than highlight what isn’t going well,” Versteeg said.