Denver Public Schools will no longer have police officers in schools beginning next June. The Board of Education unanimously approved a resolution to end its contract with the Denver Police Department at its meeting on Thursday.
"It's time we put Denver students first. It's time that we put this work that has been decades in the making and making sure that we are taking the bold steps to end the school to prison pipeline," said board director Tay Anderson, who co-authored the resolution with vice president Jennifer Bacon. "We must make sure that now we are doing the work to have a discipline system that truly is not racist."
The decision comes after weeks of local, state and nationwide protests against police brutality after the death of George Floyd, a black man, at the hands of white Minneapolis police officers.
"What we saw in our streets was a reaction to what we will no longer tolerate. This topic is not new or knee-jerk, people have been calling for the conditioning to end for a very long time," said Bacon.
Denver police currently provide the district with 18 school resource officers who work in middle and high schools.
The resolution will reduce the number of school resource officers by 25% by the end of 2020 and remove the rest by June 4, the end of the 2020-2021 school year. It lays out a plan to review the districts' policies and practices and create an alternative safety plan that supports students. 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.
The city of Denver and Denver Public Schools split the cost of the officers' salaries, according to Chalkbeat Colorado , with the district paying $721,403 this past school year. These funds will be reallocated to hire social workers, psychologists, restorative justice practitioners and other mental or behavioral health professionals.
Before the vote, the board heard from many educators, parents, law enforcement, students and community members who were both for and against the resolution.
Derek Hawkins, a dean at Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Early College, opposed the resolution. He said the process was rushed, lacked the support of directly impacted stakeholders, would not reduce tickets given to students or minimize risk on campus. Contrary to what is being portrayed, he said, SROs at his school are not wearing riot gear and ready to write tickets.
"I see officers that look like our students, officers that are serving in communities in which they grew up. I see mentors that have led our students to DPD Cadet programs. I see officers that have inspired students to become police officers," Hawkins said.
University of Denver Sturm College of Law student Tiera Brown, 28, grew up in Far Northeast Denver. She was 13 years old when school administrators first referred her to law enforcement for fighting and other infractions. Since then, Brown said she's had multiple interactions with Denver police and other officers over the years.
"Instead of being given the opportunity to learn from those mistakes, I was instead thrown into the juvenile justice system," she said.
From the 2014-15 school year through the 2018-19 school year, police officers ticketed or arrested DPS students in school at least 4,540 times. The vast majority were black or Latinx students between the ages of 10 and 15 years old, the resolution states. These disciplinary actions introduced them "to the criminal justice system" and often inflicted "institutional trauma."
While DPS' contract with the Denver Police Department is ending, the relationship will not be completely severed. The resolution asks for revised guidelines that will clarify the police department's more limited role in supporting district personnel in the creation of a "safe, healthy and equitable schools for all students."