Denver, CO – In a packed room at North High school this morning, Padres & Jóvenes Unidos, a national leader in working to end the school-to-prison pipeline in Colorado, held a community accountability session with DPS Superintendent Tom Boasberg. At the meeting, youth leaders delivered a report card to the district, evaluating the work done during the 2012 – 2013 school year, and proposing new ways to do better.
The Report Card (available here at http://padresunidos.org) gives a combined C grade to DPS for the year. The data shows that while there has been marked improvement in the rate of suspensions and expulsions, DPS still relies on referrals to law enforcement for too many discipline decisions, and the racial disparity remains unacceptably high for all three forms of punishment.
A student of color in Denver Public Schools is 189% more likely than a white student to be suspended, expelled, or referred to law enforcement by their school.
“While a lot of progress has been made, much work remains. When it comes to school discipline, consequences for some students, especially undocumented ones, are much higher. Every interaction with law enforcement could potentially lead to deportation. We encourage DPS to continue being a national leader in implementing smart school discipline policies,” noted Ricardo Martinez, Co-Executive Director of Padres & Jovenes Unidos.
The report card is the first one since the implementation of the 2012 Colorado Smart School Discipline Law, but does not yet reflect data collected since the groundbreaking 2013 Intergovernmental Agreement between DPS and DPD went into effect. At the meeting, student members of Padres & Jóvenes Unidos told their stories of being caught up in the school-to-prison pipeline and asked for continued efforts by DPS to end the unfair discipline policies that drive so many youth of color away from a necessary education.
Patricia Cardenas, a Jovenes Leader and Sophomore at Lincoln High School, put the concerns of the students succinctly: “My experience with being targeted by a teacher and suspended made me feel frustrated that my school created a negative school climate. I felt angry that I could not learn because I missed schoolwork, and unsupported and discouraged by what was happening around me. But I survived that period and soon learned that there are policies in place to make sure that what happened to me should not happen to anyone else. I am here today as a Jovenes leader, to make sure that all students like me have positive, supportive schools. I am here today to make
sure that all students have the opportunity to learn. And I am here today to make sure that all students are encouraged to be successful. The time to end the school-to-jail track in DPS is now.”
Top Denver Public Schools officials Superintendent Tom Boasberg, Director of Prevention and Intervention Services Eldridge Greer, and Director of the Division of Student Services John Simmons attended the meeting. North High School Principal Nicole Veltze and many teachers, students, and
parents joined them. DPS officials heard testimonies from students, and responded to the assertions that the report card highlights.
“ When you have established systems, they require a push to change, and PJU is really at the forefront of this work, and we appreciate the suggestions that you have made to keep us on top of it. You have done a great job pointing out when the cup is half-full or half-empty, especially when it comes to issues of race. There are many challenges still ahead, but we are excited to work with you, our teachers, and school administrators to create a better DPS,” said Superintendent Boasberg.
While the report card shows that there is some improvement, Padres & Jóvenes Unidos highlighted the necessity for continued, focused efforts by DPS to eliminate racial disparities and allow all youth a chance at a great education. PJU also presented ideas for fixes to create equity, which were fully supported by Superintendent Boasberg: including creating a Know Your Rights awareness campaign for 2014-2015 to educate students and parents on their rights under new and existing laws; launching a new community accountability process with DPD to monitor the 2013 IGA; and developing new data analysis and reporting tools – especially school by school report cards for racial disparities
– so targeted, strategic solutions could be developed. The one issue that Superintendent Boasberg committed to only partly was the idea of instituting regular purging of student discipline records, which he said required more study.
For more information about the Campaign to End the School to Prison Pipeline, and to download the Third Annual Community Accountability Report Card please go to http://padresunidos.org.