End the School to Jail Track


The overuse of harsh school discipline, zero-tolerance policies, the criminalization of youth behavior and the disproportionate impact on students of color are causing severe harm to Colorado students, families, and communities. This is also known as the School-to-Prison Pipeline and Padres & Jóvenes Unidos continues to be a trailblazer locally and nationally; finding solutions, empowering communities and holding all schools accountable.

  • How We Began

  • Historical Win

  • Where We Are

In 1999, Padres Unidos was invited to a conference hosted by a new national civil rights group called Advancement Project. It was during this conference, founders Pam and Ricardo Martinez made the larger connection to school push-out and over-policing at North High School to the surge of incarceration rates for people of color. Padres Unidos became Padres y Jóvenes Unidos: Parents and Youth United. Inspired by stories about tough schools in other parts of the country that had turned around their
discipline policies, Padres applied for a grant from the state that funded pilot programs in restorative justice in four Denver schools, including North High. However, the work to End the School-to-Jail track was just getting started.
In 2012, Padres & Jóvenes Unidos, allied stakeholders and policy makers worked to pass SB 46 (HB 1345), dubbed the Smart School Discipline Law (SSDL). The SSDL provides:

-Legislative acknowledgment of the harmful consequences of zero-tolerance in schools and that contact with the juvenile justice system should be avoided.
-Obligation for school districts to implement “proportionate” discipline (graduated consequences) to reduce suspensions, expulsions and referrals to law enforcement.
Requirement of schools to implement prevention strategies, restorative justice, peer mediation, counseling, and other approaches to minimize student exposure to juvenile and criminal justice systems.
-Substantial improvement in data collection around school-based arrests, tickets, and court referrals.
-Prioritization of appropriate training of school-based police officers on appropriate discipline with students of color, LGBT students and students with disabilities.

This groundbreaking victory brought the progress made at the local level, with Denver Public Schools, to all 178 school districts across the state. To date, we have seen undeniable progress and promising developments since the passage of SSDL, but we still have work to do in pushing alternative forms of discipline.

Since 2012 we have launched an accountability campaign in Denver to ensure that the protections that have been won for our students are implemented in Denver Public Schools. We have also participated on panels and workshops to spread restorative practices as an evidence-based solution to suspensions and expulsions.


Ending the School-to-Jail Track in the News