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Policy vs. practice: Handcuffing of students under review in Denver Public Schools

Denver’s East High School on Sunday, Sept. 30, 2018. (Lauren Bieber, Special to The Colorado Sun)

By Melanie Asmar, Chalkbeat Colorado

The chief of safety for Denver’s public schools has vowed to review the use of handcuffs on students, as well as how district safety officers are trained to work with young children, and recommend any possible policy or procedure changes.

In a presentation to the school board Monday, neither Chief Mike Eaton nor Superintendent Susana Cordova referenced a specific incident that prompted the review. But on Friday, a Denver father said on social media that his 7-year-old son had been handcuffed at school by a Denver Public Schools campus safety officer. Chalkbeat is not naming the father because he declined an interview at this time.

School board members seemed anxious to ensure nothing like that happens again — but district policy already places significant limitations on the use of restraints. The incident raises questions about policy versus practice.

“I have an incredibly difficult time imagining any scenario where a very young person should be put in handcuffs,” said board President Anne Rowe.

Denver Public Schools has long faced criticism for over-policing students. Although the district has reduced the use of punitive practices in recent years, the black and Latino students who make up the majority of its student population are still more likely than their white peers to be referred to law enforcement. Just last week, the superintendent and school board president met with students and families who pushed them to hire “counselors, not cops.”

Read more at chalkbeat.org.

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