A Latino advocacy group has reached an agreement with the Denver Public Schools and Denver Police Department that limits the role of scope of police in schools primarily to criminal threats to school safety–and not routine discipline matters.
Padres & Jovenes Unidos (Parents & Youth United) has worked for several years to combat what it refers to as the school-to-prison pipeline, which it partially blames on harsh discipline and zero tolerance policies.
The intergovernmental agreement seeks to define the role of police in schools, provide due process protections to students and families, requires input on the policing process, and mandates training prior to police being assigned to schools, Ricardo Martinez, the group’s leader, wrote in a commentary for The Denver Post.
He wrote that instead of the police ticketing or arresting students for non-criminal incidents such as talking back to teachers or swearing, the students should be referred to school administrators for disciplinary action.
The agreement seeks to solve discipline problems without using criminal punishment.
The Denver Post reports that Denver Police Chief Robert White said that “our job is to deal with serious violations of the law, and that’s what we’re going to do.” There are 15 Denver police officers working in 16 schools currently.
Superintendent Tom Boasberg told the newspaper that he expects the agreement to result in lower numbers of suspensions, expulsions and referrals to law enforcement.
The timing of the agreement is interesting, since it seems to go against the increased national discussion about the need for greater police presence on campus following the Sandy Hook Elementary incident.