6.12 One Colorado’s Statement on DPS Vote to End Relationship with DPD

Denver, CO — Last night, the Denver Public School Board voted unanimously to end Denver Public Schools’ relationship with the Denver Police Department and remove School Resource Officers in the district. One Colorado, the state’s leading advocacy organization for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) Coloradans, released the following statement:

“LGBTQ students come in all shapes and colors. To create genuinely welcoming and affirming schools, we need to implement policies, build programs, and provide tools that pertain to our identities as a whole and that have been shown to help all our children succeed. We need to recognize the intersecting aspects of our community and ensure that our efforts go beyond single-issue engagement. We support the Denver Public School Board’s resolution to remove School Resource Officers from the district.

Children of color (especially Black, Latinx, and indigenous children), children with disabilities, English-language learners, and LGBTQ children are disproportionally punished in schools and incarcerated in juvenile justice facilities. Although many of these children face family poverty, family instability, histories of abuse or neglect, and family rejection, they are punished, suspended, and expelled from schools more often than they receive the additional mental health and educational services and opportunities that research has shown would help them thrive. These practices and policies have created a School-to-Prison Pipeline throughout the US.

In the last 20 years, there has been a surge of local, state, and national action against bullying and harassment, which includes legislation, increased involvement of law enforcement agencies, and the use of ‘zero-tolerance’ policies that mandate punishments for students’ infractions regardless of the circumstances. While having protections for LGBTQ youth is important and long overdue, there is danger of implementing such policies without giving attention to other systemic and cultural obstacles. Today, we have schools where hallways are supervised by police officers, not teachers, administrators, and hall-monitors. This presence of police in schools, who often have little or no training in working with youth, results in children being criminalized for behaviors through school-based arrests for minor offenses like disruptive behavior. Meanwhile, punitive, zero-tolerance policies push more children out of schools without any constructive activities or adult supervision through suspensions and expulsions than they were a generation ago. Even strict policies meant to put an end to bullying have, in fact, reinforced the School-to-Prison Pipeline and increased school pushout, particularly for youth of color, students with disabilities, English-language learners, and LGBTQ youth. 

The Denver Public School Board is reimagining our schools to be places where young people are educated, not arrested. Reallocating funds currently spent on police contracts will enable Denver Public Schools to provide much-needed, evidence-based counseling and special education services to more youth. Focusing community resources and attention on assisting students will help them overcome histories of trauma and impoverishment instead of disciplining them. We support the Denver Public School Board as they seek innovative solutions to creating truly safe and welcoming environments for all students.”

– Daniel Ramos, Executive Director, One Colorado