Decades Long Fight by National, Local Organizations Lead to Unanimous School Board Vote in Denver
Denver Public School Board votes to end contract with Denver Police Department
Unanimously, the Denver Public School Board Thursday night voted to end the contract between Denver Public Schools (DPS) and the Denver Police Department.
The resolution that the school board voted on calls for a 25 percent reduction of school resource officers (SROs) by December 2020 and the complete elimination of SROs in DPS by the end of the 2020-2021 school year. Additionally, it directs the superintendent to reallocate money used for SROs toward social workers, counselors, restorative justice, and other practices.
Advancement Project National Office and Denver-based partner, Padres y Jóvenes Unidos (PJU), have been fighting to dismantle the school-to-prison pipeline in Denver for two decades. The partnership began in 2000, when the organizations attended the first national zero tolerance summit. In 2005, the organizations released a report together called Education on Lockdown: The Schoolhouse to Jailhouse Track and by 2008, had established enough power locally to rewrite DPS’ disciplinary code. In 2013, Advancement Project National Office and PJU addressed a historic and significant intergovernmental agreement between DPS and DPD, which limited the role of SROs. This decision was followed by The 4th Annual Denver Community Accountability Report Card: Toward Ending the School-to-Jail Track in Denver Public Schools and set the stage for the #PoliceFreeSchools and #CounselorsNotCops campaigns, as well as Advancement Project National Office’s We Came to Learn: A Call to Action for Police-Free Schools and an interactive microsite, featuring an #AssaultAt map charting incidences of police violence against students in their schools since 2009.
The monumental decision made on Thursday night is the result of work done by Black and Brown youth organizers for years and follows similar precedent-setting decisions made in Minneapolis and Portland after the brutal murder of George Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man, at the hands of Minneapolis police officers on Monday, May 25.
“Padres y Jóvenes Unidos has been an Advancement Project National Office partner since 2000. Eight years into our partnership, we built enough power to rewrite DPS’ disciplinary code,” explained Judith Browne Dianis, Executive Director of Advancement Project National Office. “In 2008, PJU was able to write a new contract with the police to limit their role in Denver schools. Now, in 2020 we get to witness a huge and incredibly meaningful win for PJU and the young people who organize in Denver. Denver Public Schools will be police free. As a result, Black and Brown students won’t face criminalization or possible brutality in school hallways. The district can now work with students to create nurturing learning environments where they can thrive. We have been honored to support young people at Padres y Jóvenes Unidos for the last 20 years leading up to this incredible victory. We hope other districts will follow Denver’s example.”
During the five school years from 2014-15 through 2018-19, there were 4,540 police tickets and arrests of students within DPS. Twenty-seven percent of those tickets and arrests were of Black students, while 53 percent were of Latinx students, and 87 percent were of students of color. These numbers underscore that the school-to-prison pipeline is alive and well in Denver, fueled by the presence of police in schools.
Research and the experiences of young people of color have taught us that police in schools create a toxic school climate. #PoliceFreeSchools are essential to the well-being of our Black and Brown youth. Advancement Project National Office applauds Padres y Jóvenes Unidos and the Denver School Board for their roles in ensuring the safety of Black and Brown students in their schools.
Following the leads of Minneapolis, Portland, and Denver, Advancement Project National Office also acknowledges the June 11 decision by the city of Charlottesville and the Charlottesville Police Department in their agreement to take SROs out of Charlottesville’s schools.
To learn more about the campaign for #PoliceFreeSchools, visit: https://advancementproject.org/wecametolearn/.