Empty halls as students work on a laptops in a nearby classroom in Newlon Elementary School early Tuesday, Aug. 25, 2020, which is one of 55 Discovery Link sites set up by Denver Public Schools where students are participating in remote learning in this time of the new coronavirus from a school in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

After removing police officers from its schools over the past year, Denver Public Schools has increased its own armed patrol unit and is in talks with the city about allowing those officers to issue tickets to students for violations like marijuana possession and fighting.

While the district believes the arrangement furthers its goal of reducing student interactions with police, some advocates see it as a bait-and-switch. Denver Public Schools will no longer have 18 Denver police officers stationed inside schools issuing tickets, but if the arrangement is finalized, the district’s expanded mobile force of 25 armed patrol officers would now have that authority.

“They’re not finding the solution; they’re just finding new ways of criminalizing our students,” said Elsa Bañuelos, executive director of the advocacy group Padres & Jóvenes Unidos.

The arrangement would allow the district’s armed patrol officers, who are not sworn police, to ticket students for as many as 15 municipal code violations (see sidebar), according to a draft agreement provided to Chalkbeat. Those types of violations accounted for at least 80% of the tickets or arrests of Denver students in the 2019-20 school year, state data shows.

The school district is working with the Denver Department of Public Safety and the Denver City Attorney’s Office to solidify the arrangement. The district hopes it will be finalized in the next few weeks, said Mike Eaton, the Denver Public Schools’ interim deputy chief operating officer. District officers would have to undergo training before they could issue tickets, according to the agreement.

These are the municipal code violations for which Denver Public Schools armed patrol officers could issue tickets, according to a draft agreement between the school district and the city. The agreement is not yet finalized. The two entities are still working on amendments related to the enforcement of Denver’s marijuana ordinance, a district spokesperson said.

  • Possession or consumption of marijuana
  • Assault
  • Public fighting
  • Threats
  • Trespassing
  • Destruction of public property
  • Destruction of private property
  • Petty theft (of an item valued at less than $2,000)
  • Possession of injection devices
  • Possession of prohibited graffiti materials
  • Carrying, wearing, or using dangerous or deadly weapons
  • Selling, carrying, or using certain knives
  • Throwing stones or missiles
  • Parking in a private driveway
  • Parking in violation of posted signs

Melanie Asmar has covered Denver Public Schools for Chalkbeat Colorado since 2015. Asmar previously worked at Westword newspaper in Denver and for a daily newspaper in New Hampshire, where she covered education. Chalkbeat is a nonprofit...