MEN Logo_Men Icon Light



For Parents


"We are always looking for stakeholders, If you would like to contribute,"


John Huber


Is Your School’s Discipline Policy Failing? Discover the Approach Denver Public Schools is Taking

Denver Public Schools (DPS) is embarking on a significant transformation in how it handles student discipline by introducing a comprehensive new discipline matrix. This initiative aims to guide staff more effectively on matters of student suspensions and expulsions, ensuring a more equitable, specific, and practical approach to student behavior management.

A Detailed Approach to Discipline

The newly developed discipline matrix is designed to address the shortcomings of the previous system, which has been criticized for its subjectivity. By incorporating a higher degree of specificity, the new matrix aims to provide clear and realistic guidelines that differentiate between various types of offenses. For instance, the matrix defines specific offenses such as “extortion/sextortion,” offering clear directives on when suspensions are appropriate. This level of detail is intended to reduce ambiguity and ensure consistent application of disciplinary measures across the district.

Racial Equity Considerations

The current discipline matrix, which was last updated in 2021, focused heavily on promoting racial equity and minimizing police contact with students. However, this approach came under scrutiny following a shooting incident at East High School in March 2023. The tragic event highlighted the need for a more refined and urgent revision of the disciplinary policies to better clarify behavior definitions and the corresponding consequences for school staff. The revisions are not just reactionary but also aim to maintain a balance between ensuring safety and promoting restorative justice practices.

Emphasis on Restorative Justice

A notable aspect of the new discipline matrix is its strong emphasis on restorative justice. Rather than resorting to suspensions as the primary disciplinary measure, the matrix encourages alternatives that keep students engaged in the school environment. This approach aligns with a broader educational philosophy that seeks to address the root causes of behavioral issues and rehabilitate students, rather than simply punishing them. While DPS believes in the power of restorative and therapeutic measures to address student conduct violations, it also recognizes that these approaches are not mutually exclusive. They can and should be executed together to create a holistic disciplinary framework.

Implementation and Offense Levels

The new discipline matrix is set to be implemented in the fall, with no requirement for a board vote, reflecting the district’s commitment to swift action. The matrix introduces a tiered system with seven levels of behavioral offenses. The most severe offenses, such as firearms possession, homicide, and attempted homicide, are classified as level seven. Examples of less severe offenses include level four offenses like disorderly conduct, such as mutual fights, which are punishable by suspension, and level two offenses like nicotine use, which are punishable by in-school suspension only.

Committee Recommendations and Community Involvement

The revision process was thorough and inclusive, involving a committee of DPS staff and community members who made over 75 recommendations over six months. This collaborative effort ensures that the new matrix reflects the needs and perspectives of the entire school community.

Addressing Disproportionate Discipline

A critical area of concern for DPS has been the disproportionate discipline of Black students, particularly those with disabilities. The district has been flagged by the state for this issue, with data from the 2023-24 school year showing that Black students with disabilities faced an out-of-school suspension rate of nearly 20%, compared to 10.6% for all students with disabilities and 5.5% for white students with disabilities. In response, DPS has committed to a corrective action plan to address these disparities, including an awareness campaign and targeted support for schools with high suspension rates of Black students with disabilities.

Training and Accessibility

To ensure the effective implementation of the new matrix, DPS plans to conduct extensive training sessions for school leaders in July and for teachers and staff in August. Additionally, the district aims to offer training for parents to foster a community-wide understanding and support of the new policies. Recognizing the importance of accessibility, the matrix will be available on mobile devices, allowing for easy reference by staff, students, and parents alike.

The introduction of this new discipline matrix marks a significant step forward for Denver Public Schools in creating a more equitable and effective disciplinary system. By focusing on clarity, fairness, and restorative justice, DPS is setting a precedent for how schools can better manage student behavior while addressing systemic issues of racial inequity. This comprehensive approach ensures that restorative and therapeutic measures can be effectively combined to create a supportive and disciplined school environment.

Dig Deeper With Our Longreads

Newsletter Sign up to get our best longform features, investigations, and thought-provoking essays, in your inbox every Sunday.

The MEN was founded by John Huber in the fall of 2020. It was founded to provide a platform for expert opinion and commentary on current issues that directly or indirectly affect education. All opinions are valued and accepted providing they are expressed in a professional manner. The Maryland Education Network consists of Blogs, Videos, and other interaction among the K-12 community.