The Denver Police Department (DPD), Denver Public Schools (DPS), and community organizations in the Denver area have built a collaborative approach to school safety and positive youth development designed to combat the school-toprison pipeline. Together, these organizations advocate a comprehensive approach to safety in which schools' disciplinary policies avoid removing students from the classroom, social service providers are substantively included in ongoing safety efforts, and students within the juvenile justice system are included in youth engagement efforts. The goals are to establish positive relationships between students, faculty, school staff members, and school resource officers; prioritize student wellbeing; and involve police only as a last resort following efforts to de-escalate conflict.
Early indicators show that Denver's approach is working: In the last five years, rates of student suspension, expulsion, and referral to law enforcement have declined despite a 6 percent increase in total student enrollment over the same period. From the 2012–2013 school year to the 2014–2015 school year, district-wide in-school suspensions declined by 35 percent, out-of-school suspensions by 15 percent, expulsions by 32 percent, and referrals to law enforcement by 30 percent. What's more, the total number of behavioral incidents reported to DPS declined by 9 percent over the same period, indicating that the number of potential safety risks to students has decreased following changes in policy and practice.
Viewing these efforts holistically, this report identifies a number of promising practices and lessons learned thatpractitioners, policymakers, and researchers may consider when engaging with students around the country