Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Denver limits the role of police officers in schools

 Leaders from the Denver Police Department and Public School System are to sign an eight-page contract that will limit the role of law enforcement in the city’s schools — a move that could mean fewer students will face arrest or citation for disciplinary infractions, reported the Washington Post.

I wrote about the school-to-prison pipeline that exists in many school districts across the country as educators have deferred ordinary discipline problems to the police for prosecution.  The pipeline has been exacerbated by the increase in police officers in the schools.

This agreement will bring detail to often-murky questions about the role of police in schools. The agreement emphasizes differences between student offenses that should be handled by educators and those that need police action, urges de-escalation of campus conflict when possible, and supports “restorative justice” practices that focus on making amends for misconduct rather than punishing for it.  

Denver Superintendent Tom Boasberg The Post the move marks a “step forward” for the system of 84,000 students. “We believe that an effective restorative justice approach makes schools safer, helps keep our kids in school and on track to graduation, and makes kids learn from their mistakes and make them right,” he said.  

Denver police officials spoke positively about the agreement but said it reflects a continuing effort. The city has 15 police, called school resource officers, in its 170 schools. That number has remained steady even as the citywide force has not been able to hire because of economic strain, police said.   “I like to think we were already doing it right, but we’ve memorialized what we were doing in writing,” David Quinones, the Denver Police Department’s deputy chief of operations told The Post. The goal of police has not been to arrest students, he said, but to create a safe campus and be good role models. “Now it’s more defined,” he added.  

The security concerns that follow tragedies nationally are shared in Denver. Changes in police practices followed Columbine, Quinones said, and after Sandy Hook, patrol officers are required to build relationships with all schools in their precincts. As happened elsewhere, he said, “Connecticut really opened our eyes.”   To read more: http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/education/a-shift-in-denver-limits-on-police-in-schools/2013/02/18/932083b4-791b-11e2-9a75-dab0201670da_story.html

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