DENVER (CBS4) — Denver Board of Education members announced a resolution Friday, limiting the role of police officers in Denver Public Schools. The resolution calls for the Board of Education to review and revise policies and practices related to the role of School Resource Officers.
School board member Tay Anderson and Vice President Jennifer Bacon are among those calling for the removal of school resource officers in their schools.
“I appreciate the boards forcefulness and tenacity in bringing this issue forward. I appreciate our board members for standing up for our black students. I’m here today for our black students. All of our students should feel safe, protected and cared for in our schools. They need to be able to trust the adults who are one their campuses with them. This is especially true for our black students,” said DPS Superintendent Susana Cordova.
Cordova heard from school leaders about the relationships officers have with students – Black, Latino and White. She says they used words like “trust” and “role model.” Cordova says it’s important to understand and be thoughtful about that input from educators.
Anderson says the district needs to take bold steps in response to police action against those protesting the death of George Floyd in Denver. His hope is they would be replaced by restorative justice coordinators, mental health specialists and additional nurses.
“Right now my concern is projecting the school-to-prison pipeline and pushing it to where more black and brown kids are being… put with tickets and in trouble and we don’t want that in Denver Public Schools,” Anderson said.
When it comes to those safety concerns, Anderson believes that police will still be able to quickly respond to any incidents at their schools. He says board members want to restructure discipline, so DPS doesn’t have to rely on law enforcement.
Board members believe their Department of Safety, along with mental health resources, would be more effective.
“Students deserve the opportunity to be taught and to process what it is that they’re experiencing. That’s the different between having an educator or counselor deal with this versus someone who’s been trained in law enforcement tactics,” said Jennifer Baco, Vice President of Denver School Board.
Stacey Collis worked as a school resource officer for 20 years and is now an instructor for the National Association of School Resource Officers. He says training is largely focused on mental health and counseling, and that their job goes far beyond policing students.
“They automatically assume, and they don’t have the understanding — they say, ‘Well, it’s a police officer in the school.’ They think they are going to stand at the corner with an AR-15 making sure hallways are safe. It’s not. It’s communicating with kids. It’s being on campus and talking with kids,” he said.
CBS4’s Dominic Garcia caught up with a student from George Washington High School Thursday to talk about possibly getting rid of SROs.
“The officer at George [Washington High School]… honestly I don’t know his name because we switched officers, but when I saw him the last month that we had before COVID hit, he was such a nice guy. He’s a black officer. He was super nice. So I don’t know if kicking DPD officers out is really a wise decision,” John said.
The resolution also calls on DPS to revise how money allocated for school resource officers is spent.
The board plans to vote on the matter next Thursday. They’ll also provide more details about community discussions regarding the contracts that will happen over the summer.