How Colorado Organizers Won School Discipline Reform

In the past decade and a half, Colorado has become a leader in the national school discipline reform movement thanks in large part to the organizing work of Padres & Jóvenes Unidos (PJU) and the Advancement Project. After five successful campaigns for district- and state-level change, the two groups have released an invaluable case study of how they built the movement for change in Colorado – and how advocates across the country can replicate their success. 

"Lessons in Racial Justice and Movement Building" begins with the story of one school, Cole Middle School, whose mostly poor and mostly Chicano or Black students were subjected to a toxic school environment brought about by the excessive use of suspensions and police referrals. PJU began organizing parents and students and within a year they won a new discipline policy and the formation of a parent- and student-based Discipline Reform Committee. 

The work and momentum from the Cole campaign led to a successful district-wide effort to reform discipline policies in all of Denver's schools. From there, organizers set their sights on state-level change and succeeded in passing the Colorado Smart School Discipline Law in 2012. 

Though there is still work to be done in Colorado to further reduce the use of harsh school discipline and end its discriminatory impact, the organizing work highlighted in this report is an inspiring example of success. You can read the full report here.