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DPS Announces Discipline Reform for Youngest Students

Superintendent Tom Boasberg, along with the Board of Education and community members, announces Resolution to Dramatically Reduce Suspensions and Eliminate Expulsions for Youngest Students.

Board of Education Introduces Resolution to Dramatically Reduce Suspensions and Eliminate Expulsions for Youngest Students

Plan emphasizes alternative disciplinary practices for students in Early Childhood Education (ECE) through third grade

Members of Denver Public Schools’ Board of Education announced today their intention to introduce a resolution which modifies the district’s discipline policy (click for FAQs). The proposed change aims to dramatically reduce suspensions and eliminate expulsions of students in Early Childhood Education (ECE) through third grade from any DPS school or program. The plan is a more equitable approach to discipline, focuses on creating and maintaining more positive learning environments in schools and ensures that there is a greater focus on corrective, instructive and restorative practices in the classroom that will keep students in the classroom.

“Our first concern is the safety of all students and we believe that our youngest students deserve to be with skilled, caring teachers when they are learning to deal with challenging behaviors,” said Board of Education Vice President Barbara O’Brien. “We are committed to keeping children learning in our schools, especially at such a young age.”

DPS has been at the forefront of discipline reform. Since 2008, it has seen a 50% reductions in out of school suspensions and expulsions for all students. In the 2015-16 school year, zero ECE through third-grade students were expelled from DPS and approximately 500 were suspended.

In 2014, the US Department of Education shared that young students who are expelled or suspended are as much as 10 times more likely to drop out of high school, experience academic failure and grade retention, hold negative school attitudes and face incarceration. There is also an equity challenge. Of the out-of-school suspensions within DPS during the 2015-16 school year, 34% involved Black students, 44% involved Latino students, 21% involved English Language Learners and 14% involved students with disabilities.

“Students of color are still three times more likely than their white peers to receive disciplinary consequences for their behavior,” said Rosemarie Allen, CEO of the Institute for Racial Equity and Excellence, a Denver-based agency working to ensure equity in educational practices throughout the nation. “As these practices disproportionately impact students of color, they also further negatively impact achievement gaps between these students and families and their white counterparts.”

“Discipline should be a form of learning and we need to stop seeing it as punishment,” added Ricardo Martinez, co-executive director of Padres y Jovenes Unidos. “We believe having methodical conversations with DPS can bring meaningful change in shifting the culture around this issue.”

To ensure that the district is providing the best support for all students, the revised policy will include direction for staff response when an ECE through third-grade student exhibits behavior that presents an imminent risk of harm to the physical, emotional or mental health and safety of self, other students or staff.

Before the board makes a decision on the plan, Denver Public Schools will solicit feedback from its broad and diverse community over the next 60 days. Gathering this information from stakeholders will ensure that DPS is proactively supporting students, families and educators. Questions and comments can be submitted via email to DisciplineReform@dpsk12.org.