In Denver schools, students of color punished disproportionately

(Photo: Flickr/Clint Gardner)
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More than half of Denver's 183 schools punish students of color at a disproportionately higher rate than white students, according to a report from Padres & Jóvenes.

​The report also finds that independently-run charter schools disproportionately use harsher discipline than district-run schools.

Some administrators and teachers say the district's focus on reducing suspensions means more disruptive students remain in class and that leads to more disciplinary cases. They agree that suspensions aren't the answer but say there aren't enough support services to give students with behavioral and emotional problems the attention they need.

The Padres organization says the answer is more training and support for teachers in restorative justice or conflict resolution. It also calls for standardizing in-school suspension policies.

Despite the findings, organizers say DPS is a national leader on school discipline.

"We have reduced our suspensions and expulsions for students of color by over two-thirds in recent years and that has been an important factor in the 60 percent reduction in our dropout rate," says DPS Superintendent Tom Boasberg. "We’ve made these gains in large part due to the work of our students, teachers, school leaders and community partners like Padres & Jóvenes Unidos. DPS is committed to further improvement through expanded restorative justice practices and enhanced training that help to ensure schools are safe places for learning that are fair to all students."