Padres & Jóvenes Unidos Youth Voice

For the last decade, the organized youth of Jóvenes Unidos have been fighting to End the School-to-Jail Track in Denver Public Schools. It was these students, joined by parents and community allies who highlighted harsh school discipline as a major barrier to educational success within DPS and who issued the clarion call for reform of the discipline code in 2005. It was youth advocacy that led to changes in disciplinary practices even before the new code was adopted. As a result, between 2005 and 2008, the rates of suspensions, expulsions, and referrals to law enforcement dropped substantially, and racial disparities became less severe. Since 2008, Jóvenes Unidos works to make the new policy a reality for youth across Denver and Colorado. With the passage of the new DPS policies in 2008 and the winning of the state law designed to lower racial disparities and the overuse of police throughout the state in 2012, Jóvenes is holding DPS accountable for implementing these new policies. Over the last five months, Jóvenes leaders have held “Action Camps” to educate youth and adults across the state on their new state law and discipline reform.

The youth of Jóvenes Unidos have taken the initiative to recruit and train their peers and keep up the pressure for change. They will continue to hold the district accountable – appreciating the progress made, but not content until all young people receive the full and equal opportunity to a high-quality college preparatory education which they deserve.

Padres & Jóvenes Unidos
3025 W. 37th Ave., Suite 206, Denver, CO 80211 P (303) 458-6545 F (303) 458-5635

and expectations for 2013
This report examines DPS’ accomplishments over the last school year (2011-2012) with respect to implementation of the 2008 discipline policy and, most importantly, articulates what remains to be done in order to make DPS the district its students deserve. The information in this report comes from publicly available data and the stories and voices of youth from across the city. It was initiated, informed, and edited by youth who care deeply about the future of their education and who feel that district employees must take more responsibility to fully implement the 2008 discipline policy and new state law. Based on the evidence gathered, we have provided DPS with its own annual “report card” on the implementation effort:

Out-of-School Suspensions (OSS)
Since last year, district-wide out-of-school suspension rates have decreased by 13%.



Expectations for 2013
 Decrease overall number of out-of-school suspensions by 70% by eliminating out-of-school suspensions for disruption [i.e. “detrimental behavior” and “disobedience/defiance or repeated interference”].  Align DPS discipline code with the 2012 Smart School Discipline Law by implementing alternatives to outof-school suspensions at every tier of the discipline code.  Create a transparent system for receiving and responding to complaints of alleged violations of the discipline policy.

We applaud the district’s progress in reducing the number of expulsions by 40%. This is an example of the district providing terrific leadership in advancing institutional change in discipline.


Expectations for 2013
 DPS must commit to fully utilizing due process in every referral to expulsion.  Align DPS discipline code with the Smart School Discipline Law to allow expulsions only when mandatory. DPS will not allow expulsions for offenses in the 1-3 categories of the Discipline Matrix.  Create a transparent system of receiving and responding to complaints of alleged violations of the discipline policy.

Referrals to Law Enforcement
Since last year, district-wide referrals to law enforcement are down 24%. Unfortunately, this only brings these numbers back to the same rates they were prior to the passage of the 2008 discipline policy. DPS must focus on reducing referrals to law enforcement for its grade to improve.


Expectations for 2013
 DPS will abide by the Discipline Matrix and limit its referrals to police to serious threats to school safety.  Police tickets and arrests of students within DPS schools for the following will be eliminated: detrimental behavior, disorderly conduct, disobedience, defiance, repeated interference, other violations of code of conduct, and habitual disruption.

Racial Disparities
Racial disparities continue to be the most significant failure of the district. Black students represent only 15% of the student population, yet are 32% of all out-of-school suspensions, expulsions, and arrests. Latino students make up half of all suspensions, expulsions, and arrests. It is time for DPS to take action and hold schools and principals accountable for their failure to reduce racial disparities within the district.


Expectations for 2013
 Eliminate all racial disparities. 2

 Track the extent to which disciplinary consequences for students of color are different than their white peers for the same conduct and make this data publically available.  Identify schools with highest racial disparities and place them on an improvement plan.

Restorative Justice
DPS has made progress implementing restorative justice programs that work in 50% of all schools and trained 179 staff in 60 schools. However, DPS pays for 16 full time SROs at a cost of $1.3 million dollars and only has 4.5 fulltime employees with restorative justice responsibilities for the entire district.


Expectations for 2013
 Make restorative justice mandatory and expand to all schools.  Hire a full time restorative justice coordinator for each school and launch a Restorative Justice Department within the district.  Collect and provide data on the effectiveness of restorative approaches, including experiences of students who went through restorative justice.  Educate all parents, students, and staff on restorative justice and how to access it.

Training opportunities increased in 2011-12. DPS provided numerous discipline trainings to staff. Nevertheless, DPS must do more by mandating training to all staff to End the School-to-Jail Track.


Expectations for 2013
 Require mandatory training on the district discipline policy, ladder and matrix, and restorative justice approaches.  Require mandatory training on cultural competency, implicit bias, and racial discrimination.  Provide training on classroom management and alternatives to harsh discipline to the teachers who consistently have the highest use of suspensions, expulsions and referrals to the police.  Track and publicize the outcome of these trainings on a quarterly basis.

Data Collection
Data collection has become more consistent in 2011-12. Suspension data is now tracked and principals are tracking data on a daily basis. Discipline reports are compiled on a monthly basis. While DPS is to be applauded for these efforts, much more can be done.


Expectations for 2013
 Disaggregate discipline data by race and school. Make this data publicly available and accessible on a quarterly basis.  Track data on students who receive tickets and arrests at school, by their race and the outcomes of their cases.  Align the discipline code to the Smart School Discipline Law requirements on data collection.

Cumulative Grade
  

DPS has made some truly impressive progress over the last year. The district is to be commended for reducing outof-school suspension rates by 29%, expulsions by 40% and referrals to law enforcement by 24%. This progress represents a shining example of what is possible through focused efforts to dismantle the School-to-Jail Track. Nevertheless, it continues to be the case that students of color are at the receiving end of harsh discipline far more often than their White peers. It is simply unacceptable that Black students are 5.5 times more likely to be suspended than White students, and Latino students are 2.4 times more likely to be suspended than White students. racial disparities, and we need immediate intervention in the individual schools where students of color continue to be punished excessively.


 There need to be concentrated efforts over the next year to address the system wide factors that are driving these


Building the Political Will
Parent & Youth Leadership Development
Padres & Jóvenes Unidos works to educate thousands of parents and youth in Denver to drive education reform. For youth, our high school chapters are the movement building force behind our policy victories. With the help of Padres & Jóvenes organizers, Jóvenes students lead weekly on-campus meetings where they organize: class presentations, petition drives, school wide assemblies, rallies and press events to End the School-to-Jail Track, demand Immigrant Rights, and build Black & Brown Unity. Our parent committees are the force behind our College Prep for All and Health Justice Campaigns, dedicated to ending racial disparities in public education. Parent members lead the charge for middle school reform, extended learning time, curriculums that prepare all students for college, and closing the achievement gap. Parent leaders organize presentations, media work, petitioning, and community meetings to advance educational and health equity for all. Learning how to integrate theory with practice, parents and youth leaders participate in summer institutes with intensive training on what our goals are within the movement and how to achieve them.

1. 2. Documents obtained from Denver Public Schools. [on file with authors]. Id. at FN. Colorado Department of Education, 2011-2012 Safety and Discipline Indicators. Retrieved on December 12, 2012 from Padres & Jóvenes Unidos & Advancement Project. (2011, December). Books Not Bars: Students for Safe & Fair Schools, A Community Analysis of the Implementation of the 2008 Denver School Discipline Policy.


Padres would like to acknowledge and thank the following funders and friends for making this work possible: Alliance for Educational Justice Communities for Public Education Reform Denver Foundation Edward W. Hazen Funders Collaborative on Youth Organizing Gill Foundation Just and Fair Schools Fund/Public Interest Projects Rose Community Foundation

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