DENVER (CBS4) – Denver Public Schools will remove all Denver police student resource officers from their building by the beginning of the 2021-2022 school year. In wake of the George Floyd and Black Lives Matter protests, and calls to defund police departments, the Denver school board unanimously voted to remove 17 Denver police officers from their buildings.
“We are responsible for the lives of our students,” said Jennifer Bacon, Vice President of the DPS school board. “It is not a small thing to be ticketed or arrested when you are a child.”
Bacon, and fellow board members Tay Anderson, said the move to eliminate officers from their buildings would allow the district to reallocate funds to prioritize mental health and other de-escalation practices.
With more than 72,000 students in more than 200 buildings, Anderson and Bacon said the district’s choice to remove SROs from schools could stop a system they described as a “school to jail pipeline.”
“(We did this) to alleviate the trauma and triggering presence of law enforcement to many people in our community,” Bacon said. “A majority of the students who have been ticketed, or arrested, are students of color. And, between the ages of just 10 and 15 years old.”
Anderson said the schools would still be safe, as the district has a safety team which patrols the outside of many buildings.
“We also have the department of safety that is armed, and unarmed, for Denver Public Schools,” Anderson said.
While the vote by the school board was unanimous, many members of the public vocalized concern. Some parents of current students accused the board of being reckless and jeopardizing the safety of their children.
John Castillo, the father of Kendrick Castillo, told Anderson and Bacon he feared their actions would lead to more violence in schools. Kendrick was killed in the school shooting in May 2019 at STEM School Highlands Ranch when he made the heroic decision to charge one of the two shooters.
STEM Highlands Ranch had recently chosen to quit employing Douglas County Sheriff deputies, while moving to private security. The private security guard working the day of the shooting was carrying a firearm when he wasn’t permitted, and also shot at a responding officer.
John Castillo said the decision by DPS to move away from SRO’s would put them in the same position for catastrophe.
“It was a gut punch, I was very disheartened,” John Castillo said. “Seventeen SROs in a large school district like Denver Public Schools is not enough.”
Castillo encouraged parents of current DPS students to vocalize any concerns they may have, and to ask the state for a voucher to send their children to private schools if DPS’ decision with SROs was of grace concern.
“We are creating a divide. Saying the police are bad, and we want them out. I don’t know how that is building community,” John Castillo said. “If we can’t secure the safety of our children and make sure they return home at the end of the day of education, it is all for nothing.”