DENVER (KDVR) — The proposed long-term safety plan from Denver Public Schools is not sitting well with some people. For the first time, parents, educators and students had the chance to share their opinion on the first draft at Monday night’s school board meeting.
The meeting lasted a little more than five hours, and topics of school closures, food insecurity and equity were discussed. Despite all that’s listed in the district’s 50-page safety plan, what brought criticism was the controversy of bringing school resource officers back into schools.
Denver Public Schools has been under a microscope as it grapples with safety and gun violence. Superintendent Alex Marrero created the plan that zeros in on mental health resources, the possibility of weapon detection technology and panic buttons and school resource officers.
District students like Sky O’Toole stood in front of the school board.
“We don’t want our schools to be militarized. We want to be students, not prisoners,” O’Toole said. “The current draft of the DPS safety plan is, frankly, heavily unbalanced. While it claims to tackle the whole of school violence, it does very little to address the root cause of violence.”
Pushback on SROs lingers, even after school shooting
Dr. Laura McArthur, a licensed clinical psychologist, also weighed in and echoed a similar message.
“Despite the largely well-intentioned use of SROs to ensure school safety, safety cannot exist amidst a system of policing that criminalizes youth of color,” McArthur said. “Instead, the use of SROs in school reproduces unjust racialized patterns of discipline and state violence that already exists outside of our schools. By putting SROs back in schools, the research is clear. We will be putting more Black and brown youth into the school-to-prison pipeline.”
Denver Public Schools rid hallways of SROs in 2020, but the district reversed course in March after two deans were shot at East High School. The new safety plan would allow each school to decide, through community engagement, whether or not to have armed officers on campus.
One district educator and parent stood up and called the board’s decision to reinstate SROs “reactionary,” saying he had great concern about it.
Denver Police Chief Ron Thomas has been supportive of SROs in schools but made it clear it’s not the only option for school safety.
More public feedback on the proposed safety plan is scheduled, and a final plan is expected at the end of June.