DENVER — A final decision on the return of school resource officers (SROs) to Denver Public Schools campuses has yet to be made, and Monday’s Board of Education meeting showed how contentious the topic remains.
Vice President Auon’tai Anderson and Secretary Michelle Quattlebaum had their microphones cut off at times for speaking without being recognized, as they expressed their concerns over armed officers returning to schools.
Superintendent Dr. Alex Marrero invited Denver Police Chief Ron Thomas to present to the board, and answer questions and concerns over the proposed partnership between the district and the department. The discussion stopped at several points, however, as Anderson and Quattlebaum voiced their concerns out of order with meeting rules.
“I’m not doing this with you today, because this is about our Black students,” Anderson said to President Xóchitl “Sochi” Gaytán at one point, as she pleaded with him to speak in turn. “When we talk about the systems — cut the mic. When we talk about these systems — and arrest me if you want to, so bring the security… Just because we have new faces, doesn’t meant that we trust what [Denver police] are going to do.”
DPS board members propose use of community resource officers instead of SROs
These arguments during meetings between board members have become one of the central qualms of the Resign DPS Board movement, which is circulating a petition calling on each member of the school board to step down.
In a press conference before Monday’s board meeting, supporters of the movement doubled down on their call for resignations and demanded a comprehensive safety policy that includes clearer discipline protocols for students with records of violent behavior.
“For some reason, this group cannot seem to function together,” said Heather Lamm. “This is a management job. This isn’t being just a voice where you can go be a rabble rouser, and you can say what you want. This is a management job, and that’s really important. And I think too few of the members have that experience, and I think that then you couple that with political ambition, and it’s just led to this incredibly dysfunctional and toxic atmosphere where they can’t even talk to each other.”
Denver Public Schools releases second draft of its long-term safety plan
The majority of comments from community members during Monday’s meeting were from students, parents and faculty members opposed to SROs returning to schools. However, the district’s Chief of Equity and Engagement Dr. Tony Smith presented partial findings from surveys conducted at various schools, finding broad support for resource officers among students, parents, and staff. Numbers presented from schools such as Lincoln High School, Montbello High School, Summit Academy, and several others found support ranging from 80 percent to 100 percent.
Quattlebaum said she was worried the surveys were not capturing all necessary voices and showing the totality of the issue and the opinions surrounding it.
“I do want to go back to what I mentioned before,” Quattlebaum said, over objections for speaking out of turn. “And that is, that our Black students will not share. They do not feel safe speaking their truth.”
The district plans to release the final version of its long-term safety plan on June 30, according to its timeline.