Colorado Department of Education Says Denver Public Schools ‘Systematically Violated’ Special Education Rights of Black Male Students

In a far-reaching decision, a state complaints officer with the Colorado Department of Education has found “widespread” concerns throughout Denver Public Schools that it systematically violated the special education rights of Black male students enrolled in the district’s centers for students with emotional disabilities.

The investigation by the state education department involved 99 students who were served in the specialized centers at district schools or an outside school contracted with the district between the spring of 2021 and 2022. The district operates separate classrooms for students with emotional disabilities, called affective needs centers, at 33 Denver schools at the elementary, middle and high school levels.

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More than a third of the centers’ students are Black boys, while 14 percent of the district’s enrollment is comprised of Black students, both male and female.

“Certainly, that’s a disproportionate number of students,” said Pam Bisceglia, executive director of AdvocacyDenver, which advocates for students with disabilities and filed the state complaint against the district last spring.

The organization also filed a federal civil rights complaint last year alleging a pattern of discrimination against Black male students. The federal investigation is pending. The complaint asks for the Office of Civil Rights to order DPS to abolish the affective needs centers and reimagine how Black students with disabilities are served.

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SOURCE: CPR News, Jenny Brundin

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