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Education

Denver School Board Could End Contract With Denver Police Department, Remove Officers From Schools

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Stephanie Daniel
/
KUNC
Denver Public School Board members Jennifer Bacon and Tay Anderson announced a resolution to end contract with the Denver Police Department.

Two Denver Public School Board members want to terminate Denver Public School's (DPS) contract with the Denver Police Department. The board's vice president Jennifer Bacon and secretary Tay Anderson announced the resolution on Friday on the steps of West High School near downtown.

"We want to be able to have a school system where students are greeted with school nurses, with full-time mental health supports with restorative practice coordinators and not Denver Police Department," Anderson said.

Denver police currently provide DPS with 18 school resource officers who work in middle and high schools.

While they want the contract to be terminated, Anderson said it does not mean DPS' relationship with the police department is completely severed.

"When we need them, we can call them," he said.

The resolution calls for a review of policies and practices and the creation of an alternative safety plan. The development of the new plan will be a "community-driven process" that will involve students, teachers, school leaders, parents, support staff and other community members.

"What we are trying to do today is name that we have had a system that has contributed to structural racism," Bacon said.

Since 2014, DPS students have been ticketed or arrested in school by police officers at least 4,540 times, announced Tay Anderson while reading snippets of the resolution. Most of the targeted students were black or Latinx students between the ages of 10 and 15-years-old.

Anderson and Bacon plan to introduce the resolution for a vote at a board meeting next week. If passed, school resource officers will be phased out by 2021.

Superintendent Susana Cordova was at the event and addressed the crowd. The school to prison pipeline needs to end, she said, and students should be able to trust adults.

"There's absolutely nothing more important than the fact that all of our students should feel safe, should feel cared for should feel protected in our schools," she said. "Education does not happen without that."

The announcement comes after a week of protests in Denver that focused on police accountability in the wake of George Floyd's death in Minneapolis. The resolution had been in the works for some time, but Anderson said the protests were "the straw that broke the camel's back." While protesting, he saw innocent students shot with rubber bullets and doused with tear gas.

"We cannot look our students in the eyes and say, 'We believe your lives matter,'" he said, "but we're welcoming you with the law enforcement officer and not mental health support, not school social workers, not restorative justice coordinators."

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