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Denver school board votes unanimously to remove police from public schools

Can you train bias out of police departments?

Denver's public school system is officially ending its relationship with the Denver Police Department (DPD). The district's school board voted unanimously this week to remove police from all schools by next year in order to undo "the systemic racism that Black children and children of color face." 

The Board of Education's Wednesday decision to terminate its contract with the DPD comes amid weeks of protests against police brutality, sparked by the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. The district plans to phase police out of schools gradually, removing all officers by June 2021. 

A $720,000 contract with the city's police provided schools 18 school resource officers last year, according to the non-profit new organization Chalkbeat. Moving forward, Denver Public Schools (DPS) will rely on 100 private security officers, both armed and unarmed. 

"DPS is deeply committed to affirming the lives of our students and has been changing our institutional culture to align with that commitment and undo the normalization of inferiority and bias," the district wrote in its decision Thursday. 

In the decision, DPS noted that students were ticketed or arrested by police officers while at school at least 4,540 times from the 2014-15 school year through the 2018-19 school year. The vast majority of those students, DPS said, were black or Latinx, ages 10 to 15, "thereby introducing them to the criminal justice system and often inflicting institutional trauma." 

The district said the majority of those cases could have been handled by school personnel without police interference. 

Black Lives Matter Protests Held In Cities Nationwide
People protest next to the Colorado State Capitol on June 6, 2020, in Denver, Colorado. This was the 12th day of protests since George Floyd died in Minneapolis police custody on May 25. Michael Ciaglo/Getty Images

"George Floyd's death, and every tragic death of Black people at the hands of law enforcement, have brought to light how we as a district can respond and do more for our students of color," the district told CBS News in a statement. "It's important to think about the full context here: strong safety resources on our campuses; trusting relationships with the adults in our schools; and the urgent and absolute need to end the school-to-prison pipeline. I believe the board has voted on this resolution with the best interest of students at heart."

According to data from the Colorado Department of Criminal Justice, Denver's black students are disproportionately ticketed and arrested at school — during the 2018-19 school year, one in four tickets or arrests involved black students, even though only about one in seven students are black, Chalkbeat reports.

"The perpetuation of the school-to-prison pipeline is incompatible with our goal of creating safe, healthy, and equitable schools for all DPS students," the district said. 

DPS said it plans to redirect the funds from the contract to increase the number of school-based social workers, psychologists, restorative justice practitioners and other mental or behavioral health professionals. It introduced a number of measures along with the decision to ensure student safety.

Earlier this month, the Minneapolis public school system also voted unanimously to terminate its contract with the city's police department. The board directed the superintendent to cease any future negotiations with the department.

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