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Colorado is not the first place I would think of, to find a progressive turn in policy like this. Considering the history of mass shootings there -- Aurora, and especially Columbine -- the state had might be the expected zero-tolerance policy in schools. But the police haven't been busy stopping shooters from slaughtering children. Instead, they've been introducing ever more children to the criminal justice system, and with a persistent racial disparity to boot.

So, I'm encouraged to see the people of Denver collaborating to minimize this heavy-handed interaction between students and the police. In particular, they're taking extra steps to confront racial bias. In doing so, they're rejecting the NRA's stated goal of ever-increasing police presence and more guns in schools, and they're working to break down the insidious school-to-prison pipeline.

Photo book Winner of the 2012 Best News and Documentary Photography Award from the American Society of Magazine Editors.  The nearly 150 images in this book were made over 5 years of visiting more than 1,000 youth confined in more than 200 juvenile detent
The school to prison pipeline, and the detestable, disproportionate effect of it on minority children, is something I've been familiar with for some time (unfortunately). The community here that continues to speak out about it is well worth the time of reading and learning. Here, for example:
Perhaps it’s still a foreign concept to most people, but the criminalization of black and brown youth is a daily routine. Reyes’s situation isn’t unlike that of 6-year-old Salecia Johnson, who in April of last year was arrested and handcuffed in school, after what was described as “temper tantrum.” Before her, there was 5-year-old Michael Davis, whose hands and feet with restrained with zip ties when his school called the police in to scare away his behavioral problems. The kids get the message a very young age, and the rest the world does as well, that they are potential menaces to society and will be treated as such.
Or, more recently, here:
Best publicized, perhaps, is the plight of young people in Meridian, Mississippi, where a federal investigation is probing into why children as young as 10 are routinely taken to jail for wearing the wrong color socks or flatulence in class. Bob Herbert wrote of a situation in Florida in 2007, where police found themselves faced with the great challenge of placing a 6-year-old girl in handcuffs too big for her wrists. The child was being arrested for throwing a tantrum in her kindergarten class; the solution was to cuff her biceps, after which she was dragged to the precinct house for mug shots and charged with a felony and two misdemeanors.
It looks preposterous on its face, five and six year olds being put in handcuffs or zip ties, getting taken downtown for mug shots. But this is what happens when police are placed in schools. They can become a crutch, relied upon far too often when a less extreme response would do. At times renamed "resource officers," they can escalate a trip to the principal's office into an early introduction to the criminal justice system.

Meanwhile, the NRA is hard at work, aiming to follow up on Wayne LaPierre's ridiculous call for armed guards in every school. They seek to develop laughably named "best practices" using a team headed up by Asa Hutchinson, lately from George W. Bush's Homeland Security department.

Wayne LaPierre, Executive Vice President of the National Rifle Association (NRA), speaks during a news conference in Washington December 21, 2012. NRA, the powerful U.S. gun rights lobby, went on the offensive on Friday arguing that schools should have ar
Wayne, Wayne, go away. Come, never.
"It's obvious from the record of violence in our country that most active shooter scenarios that have occurred in a school are over within minutes," he said. "And so it's all about the capability of an immediate response."

Part of that immediate response would be to install trained police officers, sometimes called "resource officers," to protect educators and students from potential threats to their safety.

"An armed guard is not a 100% guarantee of security -- we would never say that -- but it certainly enhances the response and whenever you can decrease that response time or improve that response time then you are going to diminish the loss of life," he said.

Notably, the NRA has not figured out how this legion of armed guards will be paid for. They'll be too busy attacking Democrats to be able to pony up a few bucks themselves, I suspect. I also suppose we could attack this proposal using the typical NRA line of 'reasoning,' since they won't guarantee safety 100%, it must not be worth doing at all! Not a very reasonable argument after all, but it is theirs, when it comes to attacking gun control legislation. All or nothing, essentially, is the gun enthusiast's line.

The Denver school system, however, has chosen to minimize the police presence and interaction in their schools for different, better reasons. Considering that Columbine and Aurora aren't far from Denver, it seems a brave step to take.

Leaders from the city’s police department and public school system are to sign an eight-page contract that 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 said 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.

In day-to-day school life, Boasberg said, he expects less reliance on police ticketing and out-of-school suspension.

So, the schools in Denver aren't dropping the police presence entirely; they're committing to focus the police presence on serious offenses. I appreciate that they've recognized the dangers of more aggressive police response to minor offenses in school.
“Our main goal is to end the school-to-jail track,” said David Valenzuela, 17, a student leader. “What I’m hoping to see is that students are going to have a much better relationship with SROs and won’t be ticketed for minor things.”
And I can appreciate this, too. When I was a kid, one of my best friends and mentors happened to be the chief of police in my little hometown. I suppose part of that was from getting into a fight with his son one day, but mostly it came through delivering his newspapers. It troubles me to see what has become of the police these days. It doesn't have to be like that. But to make positive change, problems have to be confronted. And though the Denver school system already rolled back this 'zero tolerance' policy somewhat in 2008, what was left of it still fell hard upon minority students.
Denver’s 2008 rollback of the zero-tolerance policies it adopted from the state didn’t have the same impact for all its students. Black students make up 15 percent of the city’s public school population, but comprise 32 percent of the kids who are suspended, expelled and arrested. Put another way: For every one white student who missed class time during the 2011-2012 academic year due to an out-of-school suspension, about five black and two Latino students missed school time for the same reason.

This racial imbalance appears with striking consistency across the country, and with just about every level of granularity one can use to examine the data. Such inequitable application of tough school discipline policies might be justifiable if, as zero-tolerance proponents have suggested, black students misbehaved more frequently than their non-black peers. Yet, there’s scant evidence to support this idea. In fact, researchers have found that white students who are suspended or expelled are far more likely to be reprimanded for objective infractions like graffiti, or cutting class, or smoking, whereas black students are more often referred to the principal’s office for subjective offenses like being “disrespectful” or “disruptive.” And some data suggests that black students are treated more harshly than their non-black peers for the same offenses.

Credit where it's due, they're trying. The police and security guards will be trained to better handle their jobs in the schools and to recognize and confront racial bias. They have a written policy committing to it. And though most stories of the police that I see anymore are the wrong things cops do, I know the potential for good is out there, that better relationships can be had. I'll be rooting for Denver to get this done right...
“When you are not locking up all these students for minor offenses you will find students will develop a positive outlook on police on campus. With this work you’re going to find that school climate is going to improve, and you’re going to find that school campuses are safer,” said Judge Steven Teske, a national figure in school discipline reform efforts. “There is another way to do this, and Denver has led the way.”
...and not just because it rejects the NRA's fantasies.

Originally posted to The Tytalan Way on Fri Feb 22, 2013 at 09:54 AM PST.

Also republished by Shut Down the NRA, Colorado COmmunity, and Black Kos community.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (27+ / 0-)

    “Now, I can imagine the shocking headlines you’ll print tomorrow morning: 'More guns,' you’ll claim, 'are the NRA’s answer to everything!'" -- Wayne LaPierre

    by tytalus on Fri Feb 22, 2013 at 09:54:17 AM PST

  •  Tip of the hat to Black Kos (14+ / 0-)

    Told you I wouldn't forget that image of the little girl in kindergarten cuffed around her biceps, because they wouldn't fit on her wrists. I look forward to reading more from you later today.

    “Now, I can imagine the shocking headlines you’ll print tomorrow morning: 'More guns,' you’ll claim, 'are the NRA’s answer to everything!'" -- Wayne LaPierre

    by tytalus on Fri Feb 22, 2013 at 10:06:00 AM PST

  •  Interesting. Biden's crime bill, from 94, had (0+ / 0-)

    him putting LEOs in schools.

    Guess he changed his mind. Or maybe, if the NRA does it, it's automatically bad.

    Republicans cause more damage than guns ever will. Share Our Wealth

    by KVoimakas on Fri Feb 22, 2013 at 10:07:37 AM PST

  •  Kossacks who remember (7+ / 0-)

    the Criminal Injustice Kos series might be pleased to learn that the now former users who published it continue at the Critical Mass Progress website.

    Prof. Nancy Heitzeg, who left Daily Kos in protest of what she considered grossly unfair resolution of that season's pie fight dealt with the school-to-prison-pipeline in the linked edition of CI, as Criminal Injustice is now known.

    “Perhaps the most 'spiritual' thing any of us can do is simply to look through our own eyes, see with eyes of wholeness, and act with integrity and kindness.” Jon Kabat-Zinn

    by DaNang65 on Fri Feb 22, 2013 at 10:11:54 AM PST

  •  Tipped and rec'ed nt (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    tytalus, Larsstephens
  •  Thank you, tytalus. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Larsstephens, tytalus

    I am very interested to see what comes out of Denver's efforts.

    Dwell on the beauty of life. ~ Marcus Aurelius

    by Joy of Fishes on Fri Feb 22, 2013 at 06:38:21 PM PST

  •  Children legally beaten in schools in 2013 (0+ / 0-)

    The ACLU recommended enactment of Federal Bill HR 3027 "The Ending Corporal Punishment in Schools Act" Cost $0, at the Groundbreaking Senate Hearing to End the School-to-Prison-Pipeline held 12/12/12, Proposed Federal Bill H.R. 3027 DIED again December 2012! As of January 2013 there is no re-introduction of proposed federal bill H.R. 3027, previously introduced in 2010 as H.R. 5628, both versions DIED in U.S. Education Committee, even after Congressional Subcommittee on Healthy Communities and Families Hearing held 4/15/2010!

    2/10/2013 U.S. Teacher's aide who filmed child porn, video of the defendant spanking a naked child, inside elementary school faces 50 years in prison after guilty plea/Spanking Children Legal in Schools 19 U.S. States in 2013, yet prohibited by Federal law in ALL U.S. Prisons, yet prohibited by Federal law in ALL U.S. Prisons!

    AL, FL and TN among states that Do Not Require parental consent or notification for children to be hit in school!   2/3 of Tennessee students attend "Paddling Schools", yet Corporal Punishment is Prohibited in Nashville area schools!  See brutally violent injuries to schoolchildren from US Public School Corporal Punishment at YouTube video trailer for Documentary Movie "The Board of Education" by Jared Abrams

    February 2013, No Re-Inroduction of proposed Federal Bill to End Corporal Punishment of Children in U.S. Public Schools, leaving the safety and equality for equal access to safe and healthy learning environments for America's schoolchildren up to 19 States (States leave the decision to use Pain Punishment against Children up to local autonomous school boards)where it remains legal.  

    How many Decades must American Schoolchildren wait for States and U.S. Federal Lawmakers to enact legislation to Ban Violent Physical Pain Punishment in taxpayer funded schools?

    No conversation about safe schools and bullying can take place as long as violent corporal punishment of children in taxpayer funded public schools remains legal in the U.S. dont hit students dot com

    2/2013  Arizona Bill SB 1361 to Prohibit School Corporal Punishment Introduced  by Rep. Katie Hobbs

    2/7/2013 North Carolina State Board of Education Members approve resolution opposing corporal punishment of children in schools. The Board does not have statutory authority to ban the practice, which requires legislation be enacted by the  General Assembly.

    2/6/2013 News Video: Student bruised severely from school discipline - sought emergency medical treatment  Search News Headline Parent Concerned About Paddling.

    2/7/2013 News Headline:  Paddling in Schools Still Alive and Well in Georgia

    2/8/2013 News Headline:  Judo abuse scandal threatens to undermine Tokyo 2020 Olympic bid (School Corporal Punishment of Student Athletes)

    Violent School Corporal Punishment of Children, even disabled, Kindergarten through Twelfth Grade by Mandatory Child Abuse Reporters, School teachers, coaches and administrators hitting them with wooden boards/paddles to inflict Pain Punishment for minor infractions (assault in public) with No Safety Standards remains Legal in the following 19 US States: AL AZ AR CO FL GA ID IN KS KY LA MS MO NC OK SC TN TX WY. Over 220,000 American schoolchildren are "Paddled" in U.S. schools each year with approximately 20,000 seeking emergency medical treatment for injuries from school "paddling", 2013 U.S. Educator's "Best Practice"?

    Search "A Violent Education" 2008 Study by Human Rights Watch and ACLU for disturbing facts. School Corporal Punishment is already Illegal in Schools in 31 US States and Prohibited by Federal Law for use against convicted Felons in ALL US Prisons!

    1/9/2013 Study: Spanking spurs violence, legal in schools?

    1/27/2013 Corporal Punishment banned in schools in 1982, Calls for Ireland to (finally) outlaw corporal punishment in the home.

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