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Denver’s student discipline policy will limit suspensions and expulsions in early grades

The Denver school board voted unanimously Monday to revise its student discipline policy to limit suspensions and expulsions of preschool through third-grade students.

Although some Denver Public Schools teachers and staff expressed concern about receiving too little district support in handling extreme behavior from young students, board members spoke of the importance of disrupting the so-called school-to-prison pipeline.

“We are telling our students they are here in school to learn and that’s where we want them to be,” said board member Rachele Espiritu.

Advocates say the policy changes, which will take effect for the coming school year, put DPS on the forefront of efforts nationwide to change early childhood discipline practices and address the disproportionate use of suspensions and expulsions on young boys of color.

They also say removing kids from school for disruptive or aggressive behavior results in lost learning time, contributes to long-term school disengagement and doesn’t work to change behavior.

The approval of the policy changes comes just two months after legislation that would have established similar suspension and expulsion limits statewide died in a Republican-controlled Senate committee.

DPS officials say $11 million from a recent voter-approved tax measure is earmarked to help schools support students’ mental health. On average, district-run elementary schools will receive $47,000 from that pot next year.

Chalkbeat reporter Melanie Asmar contributed to this report.