DENVER (CBS4)– In a unanimous vote Thursday night, the Denver Public Schools Board of Education agreed to remove school resource officers from schools. The vote ends the district’s contract with the Denver Police Department.
According to the resolution, DPS will reduce the number of school resource officers by 25% before the end of this year and will remove all school resource officers from schools by no later than June 4, 2021.
DPS Superintendent Susana Cordova tells CBS4 the vote is final, unless the board proposes and votes on something different down the line.
Cordova issued the following statement to CBS4:
“George Floyd’s death, and every tragic death of Black people at the hands of law enforcement, have brought to light how we as a district can respond and do more for our students of color. Ever since the issue of removing school resource officers was first raised, I emphasized how critical it is to hear from many different voices in the community. We heard from several stakeholders tonight, with pros and cons on both sides. It’s important to think about the full context here: strong safety resources on our campuses; trusting relationships with the adults in our schools; and the urgent and absolute need to end the school-to-prison pipeline. I believe the board has voted on this resolution with the best interest of students at heart.
There is absolutely nothing more important than all of our students feeling safe, cared for, and protected in our schools. An education does not happen without that. Our students need to trust the adults who are on our campuses with them. I appreciate the board’s forcefulness and tenacity in bringing this issue forward.”
The meeting included more than four hours of public comment from school leaders and concerned parents. Jenn Jackson, Principal at The Academy of Urban Learning says she supports the move.
“When we employ police in our schools over mental health counselors, over nurses, and over arts education we are saying as a district that’s where our values lie,” said Jackson.
Others said that while the intention of SROs is good, police practices have not benefited students.
“This has led to a general distrust from the community. Parents who have been patronized and antagonized by police now watch their children going through the same thing,” said one speaker.
School board member Tay Anderson and Vice President Jennifer Bacon are among those calling for the removal of school resource officers in their schools. 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.
But opponents pointed out how valuable their school resources have been. Kevin Wilson, Dean of Students at Collegiate Prep Academy, talked about a long time SRO on the Montbello campus, Officer Bernard Henry.
“He has sponsored the Latino Club; he’s provided baskets for families. He’s arranged field trips for students and he’s just provided all types of guidance,” he told the school board.
Scott Wolf is the principal at North High School and feels many people don’t understand what a school resource officer does on a daily basis.
“Of the school leader colleagues who have SROs on campus not a single one I’ve spoken to is in favor of the resolution,” said Wolf.
Perhaps the most pointed criticism came from Jason Murdock, dean of students at Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Early College. He took aim at board member Tay Anderson. He said the only reason he wants DPS to end its partnership with the Denver Polcie Department is to get back at them for their handling of the recent George Floyd protests in Denver.
“So we go after SROs for revenge on DPD? You are a coward, and so are any members that agree with you. Cowards for not fighting the most important fight, racism. Cowards for attacking and assaulting clearly successful SROs simply because of our anger and pain towards law enforcement,” said Murdock.