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(844) 627-8267 | Info@NationalCyberSecurity

Denver Public School’s safety plan cannot abandon students who make mistakes | #schoolsaftey

Denver Police Division Chief Ron Thomas listens to the DPS board members about school resource officers, or SROs, in schools during a board meeting at the DPS headquarters on June 5, 2023 in Denver, Colorado. The Denver school board is considering whether to rescind 2020 policy barring police on campuses. After hearing public commentary for hours on Monday, The school board will vote on whether to rescind or reaffirm its 2020 policy prohibiting armed police in schools, potentially paving the way for officers to return to campuses long-term. Rescinding the policy would open the door for Superintendent Alex Marrero to station SROs in schools without the board needing to craft a new policy. (Photo by Helen H. Richardson/The Denver Post)

Students have the right to know they are safe in our schools — safe to explore, create and learn together. They have the right to be safe from violence in all its forms. This is the challenge we face as a school community in Denver Public Schools and the impetus for the creation of our comprehensive Operational Safety Plan.

Yet, this is not an us versus them situation. It is everyone, all of us, against the scourge of gun violence.

While the potential return of School Resource Officers has garnered the most attention during the past few months, many community members have also voiced their concerns regarding our Discipline Matrix. Specifically our commitment to providing all students, regardless of their past disciplinary infractions, with an appropriate education.

These community members have called for students who have had significant disciplinary issues to be placed in alternative or virtual schools. While I understand their concerns, it is my belief that to do this not only violates our obligation to provide all students with an appropriate education, but also sets these children up for failure, recidivism, and a deficit mindset that will negatively impact them for their entire lives.

We know that violence is on the rise in our city. Thus we must have a multi-pronged approach to reimagining the historical systems and structures that have helped create our current reality. Here in DPS we continue to be committed to restorative justice practices, and providing our students an opportunity to learn and grow from their mistakes.

Our approach to restorative justice was echoed in a study by the National Threat Assessment Center (NTAC), a joint organization within the Department of Homeland Security and Secret Service, which investigates incidents of school violence. The NTAC study had a number of important findings, including, “Removing a student from school does not eliminate the risk they might pose to themselves or others. The five plotters (students who had planned to attack a school but were stopped) were recently former students who had left school within one academic year, as they had been expelled, enrolled in other schools, graduated, or stopped attending classes. This indicates that simply removing a student from school, without appropriate supports, may not necessarily remove the risk of harm they pose to themselves or others.”

I urge everyone to read this vital report which clearly demonstrates that exclusionary discipline alone is not a foolproof plan to make a school more secure.

Our DPS Vision is that “Every Learner Thrives”. We know that in order to thrive, every learner must matter! In DPS, we lift up the dignity and humanity of all we serve. Students come to our schools to learn and grow. Part of that means they will make mistakes. When they do, they need our affection and support more than ever. Removing them from the school they know and love does not serve them or us. It simply puts them on a path where they feel alienated, alone, and worthless.

Students who make mistakes are not inherently violent or criminals. We all have made bad decisions. Yet there is room for redemption. All children deserve to be loved and cared for. I ask our community to please refrain from prejudging our students based on rumors or if they made a mistake previously. Our job as educators, and duty as a community, is to help them learn and grow, not turn our backs and deem them unworthy of a seat in a classroom.

All a student may need to hear to help turn their life around is that they matter. That we care for them. That they are worth our affection. That we have high expectations for them because we know they are capable of meeting and exceeding them.

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