25 students ticketed, 5 arrested after police returned to Denver schools last fall

25 students ticketed, 5 arrested after police returned to Denver schools last fall

School resource officers ticketed 25 students and arrested five pupils last fall in their first full semester back in Denver Public Schools buildings, according to new data released by Colorado’s largest district.

Black students were disproportionately disciplined last semester, making up about a third of the pupils arrested or ticketed but only 13% of the district’s student population, according to the data released to The Denver Post via a public records request.

Students were arrested and ticketed at nine schools for various reasons, including car theft, possession of a handgun, assault and driving while intoxicated, according to the data. 

The Board of Education voted last year to reverse a 2020 policy prohibiting armed officers on campuses, a move that allowed SROs to return to the district for the foreseeable future. Board members made the decision after months of debate over how to act following last year’s shooting inside East High School in which a student wounded two administrators.

When the board voted, members directed district officials to track when students were ticketed or arrested and give routine reports on the data.

Officers were stationed at 13 campuses, mostly comprehensive high schools, when students returned to school in the fall under an agreement DPS struck with the Denver Police Department.

Board members were divided in their decision to reinstate SROs, with some arguing that having police in schools harms students of color and perpetuates the school-to-prison pipeline because Black and Latino pupils are arrested and ticketed at disproportionately high rates. 

Research shows that the presence of SROs on campus can reduce violence, but it isn’t clear whether the officers prevent shootings. Research has also shown that when SROs are present, students of color are more likely to be punished with expulsions and arrests.

Movimiento Poder, which has worked to decrease the over-discipline of students in DPS schools, released a report last year that showed the number of tickets and arrests in the district had fallen for almost a decade, including after the board decided to remove SROs in 2020.

The district reported 151 tickets and student arrests during the 2021-22 academic year, which was an almost 80% decrease from the 744 tickets and arrests in 2018-2019, the last full school year before the pandemic and before the board voted to remove SROs, according to the organization’s report.

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