Amid calls for law-enforcement reform in the wake of the George Floyd killing, two members of the Denver school board are seeking to end the contract between the district and the Denver Police Department that puts officers in middle and high schools.
Denver Board of Education Vice President Jennifer Bacon and board Secretary Tay Anderson, one of the most visible figures in the ongoing Denver protests, want to discontinue the district’s school resource officer program, which currently places 18 uniformed officers in schools.
Friday morning, they announced plans for a resolution that, according to a Denver Public Schools news release, will direct the Board of Education to “review and revise policies” related to the role of school resource officers, and revise how the money allocated for that program is spent.
They hope to divert resources to add more mental health workers and full-time nurses, and note that DPS still has its own Department of Safety that provides campus security — and police still can be called in case of emergency.
Bacon and Anderson appeared at a morning news conference with DPS Superintendent Susana Cordova and community members to discuss the measure.
“Our numbers show us that black children are still three to five times more likely to refereed to law enforcement or suspension, respectively, and again some of our own practices have introduced students to a normalization an internalization of their place, which is not something we want to contribute to anymore,” Bacon said.
Anderson said he expects to release the text of the finalized resolution on Monday. He read from a draft of the document, which notes that, since 2014, students have been ticketed or arrested in school by Denver police officers 4,540 times with “the vast majority being black or Latinx students between the ages of 10 and 15.”
The resolution calls for Denver Police Department school resource officers to be phased out through the fall, with officers fully removed by Jan. 1, 2021.
“School resource officers are not needed to ensure the safety of all of our kids,” Anderson said, reading from the draft resolution.
Declaring “black lives matter,” Cordova said she supports the district’s black students and black educators, and that she recognizes the “absolute need to end the school-to-prison pipeline.” The president of the Denver Classroom Teachers Association said the union supports the move to get law enforcement out of DPS schools.
“There’s absolutely nothing more important than the fact that all students should feel safe, should feel cared for, should feel protected in our schools,” Cordova said. “Education does not happen without that.. and this is especially true for our black students.”
For much of the week, Anderson has been vocal about his desire to get Denver police officers out of the district’s schools.
“This weekend innocent children from Denver Public Schools were gassed and shot at by @DenverPolice at the peaceful protests, therefore our contract between DPD/DPS must come to an end,” he tweeted on Thursday.
Anderson’s push comes as Minneapolis’ school board this week voted to sever ties with that city’s police department. Floyd died on Memorial Day after a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes. Four fired police officers now face charges in connection with Floyd’s death.
Similarly, the school superintendent in Portland, Ore., this week announced he’s discontinuing the use of armed police officers in schools.
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