From The Desk of Pamela Bisceglia
Dear Denver Public Schools Board of Education:
We are writing as advocates in the disability community to ask that you support the call of your colleagues, Tay Anderson and Jennifer Bacon, to end the human rights violations of school policing. In this historic moment spurred by the murder of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police, we call on you to do what is right and just and vote to terminate the Denver Public Schools’ (DPS) contract with the Denver Police Department and remove all police from the DPS.
The school to prison pipeline has been an issue that has been at the forefront of our work. This is an issue where AdvocacyDenver appreciates having an opportunity to collaborate with Padres, other community groups and Denver Public Schools to forward change. This is an issue that impacts black and brown male students and a growing number of female students, but it also significantly impacts students with disabilities. Students with disabilities are among the most acutely impacted by school policing, at risk of being criminalized at school. Between 40-60 percent of youth and adults in correction facilities have an identified disability. October 2019, we submitted a request to CDE and received a copy of what DPS submitted regarding referrals to law enforcement beginning in 2015. For 2018-2019 the available data confirms that that although 11 percent of the students enrolled in DPS are identified as having a disability, they make up 25% of the referrals to law enforcement.
Based on the advocacy referrals received by AdvocacyDenver and other community agencies, we suspect that the number of calls to law enforcement went up this year. That is, Denver Public Schools Safety and Security ended the practice of handcuffing children and instead elementary, middle and high schools were directed to call the police department. Parents report that they are called after the police and asked to come to the school campus. Fall 2019, the parent of a 5-year-old child with a disability was summoned to the elementary school, she was terrified to see two police officers with her 5-year-old black son.
We support a Board of Education Resolution that calls for the end of the contract with Denver Police Department. We support a Resolution that calls for a review of the role and responsibility of DPS Safety and Security officers. We support a Resolution that calls for an independent review when Safety and Security or the police are called to a campus. We support a decision to provide highly trained staff versed in working with a diverse urban population, positive behavior interventions and restorative practices.
It is time for DPS to invest in practices that improve outcomes for all students, including but not limited to restorative justice programs; increased use of school psychologists, social workers, and other mental health professionals; drug and alcohol treatment services; wraparound services for youth; and training for all school staff on restorative practices, conflict resolution techniques and trauma-informed approaches to meeting students’ developmental needs.