Denver Public Schools NewsletterFebruary 20, 2013
By: Denver Public Schools Superintendent Tom Boasberg
Dear DPS Community:
I would like to share with you a shining example of how our students have put forth their voice to help make a positive impact on our schools and our students. Yesterday, during a public signing and celebration of an updated agreement between DPS and the Denver Police Department, we heard from students who were involved in the discussion from the beginning with the goals of improving the safety of our schools, keeping students in school while they work through minor discipline issues, and reducing the number of students whoare suspended and expelled from school. (Click here to watch Channel 2's coverage of the signing event.)
"I have had friends get suspended and ticketed for minor offenses, and I saw how that affected them as students and took away from their potential," CEC Middle College junior Tori Ortiz said during yesterday's event. "It put them on the wrong track, and I recognized this. And I wanted to find out what I could do to change it. As students, we researched best practices for (these agreements) from around the country and proposed our solutions to DPS and DPD."
Tori was among a group of students from the community group Padres y Jóvenes Unidos who prompted a serious conversation around how our schools could reduce the number of students who are referred to police and ticketed for minor school-discipline incidents. This conversation led to a movement toward restorative approaches at our schools and ultimately to the revised agreement we announced this week.
Our goals are to keep our schools safe and to keep our kids in school on the path to graduation. Our experience has been over the last several years that our restorative justice program, which aims to address behavior and discipline issues among students proactively, best accomplishes these goals. Restorative justice means that our students who make mistakes need to learn from those mistakes and make whole any of their peers whom they harm.
Our approach has been recognized nationally for its progress. Click here to read a Washington Post story on the partnership.
We continue to cooperate closely with the Denver Police Department, which supports 15 uniformed police officers who serve as school resource officers in our middle and high schools. These police officers play an important role in the safety of our schools. The updated agreement is clear on the role of these officers in law enforcement in the cases of more significantincidents at our schools, while leaving to our schools the authority to deal with minor school discipline incidents.
In addition to this presence of our school resource officers, we are significantly increasing our investment in the physical safety of our schools. Thanks to funds allocated in the voter-approved 2012 Bond, we will be installing card-key access at our schools to better control our entryways. We will also be installing additional cameras in our schools that are linked to our police department to provide real-time video information in the event of a disturbance. We continue to review all aspects of school safety and campus security to look for ways to make improvements and ensure the safety of all our students.
I am grateful for the work of our students and to Padres y Jóvenes Unidos and the Denver Police Department for their partnership. As a result of this partnership and our focus on restorative justice, we have reduced the number of expulsions in DPS by two thirds in the last two years, and out-of-school suspensions this year are on pace to be reduced by nearly one half compared to three years ago.
In short, our approach has made our schools safer and helped keep our kids in school on path to graduation. We are fortunate to have students like Tori express their views so thoughtfully, take leadership, and help create the campus climates that provide the safest environment and the best learning opportunities possible.