U.S. Department of Education opens two investigations into allegations of racial discrimination at Denver Public Schools
The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights is investigating allegations that Denver Public Schools discriminated against students and others based on their race when it formed a committee to review the district’s discipline policies and when administrators decide which pupils can participate in math extension courses.
DPS and Will Trachman, general counsel for the Lakewood-based Mountain States Legal Foundation, which filed the complaints, on Tuesday both confirmed that the Office of Civil Rights had opened the investigations.
“We want DPS to follow federal civil rights laws,” Trachman said. “They can’t use race as a factor in making decisions.”
Trachman said the foundation, a conservative nonprofit that specializes in property rights issues, has filed five complaints against DPS with the Office for Civil Rights, but so far only two have resulted in investigations.
Bill Good, a DPS spokesman, defended the district’s actions.
“Denver Public Schools operates under Department of Justice guidance in regard to equity work,” he said. “The DOJ has issued guidance to guide equity work in public schools and everything we do in Denver Public Schools is aligned to that Department of Justice guidance.”
Representatives for the Department of Education could not immediately be reached for comment Tuesday.
The Denver Gazette first reported the Office of Civil Rights’ investigations.
DPS created a committee last fall to review the district’s discipline policies, which were criticized by parents and educators as being too lenient following last year’s shooting inside East High School. That shooting, which left two administrators injured, involved a student who had been undergoing daily checks for weapons.
The committee, which met six times beginning in October, is expected to release final recommendations by the end of the 2023-24 academic year.
Trachman alleged that DPS officials decided who should serve on the committee based on applicants’ race.
He alleged that former Board of Education member Scott Baldermann sent a text message to a constituent that said the district would try to make the committee reflective of the DPS student population, which is about 75% children of color.
Baldermann declined to comment for this story.
The other investigation involves a fourth-grade math extension program at an elementary school in northeast Denver. The program, which provides a more individualized and difficult course of study, says students can participate if they are in the 95th percentile for math ability.
But “if you are a person of color… there’s a lower threshold, which is 90th percentile,” Trachman alleged.
DPS has a discriminatory bias against people who are not white or Asian by setting a lower expectation for them academically, he said.
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