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Denver high school criticized over video telling students to avoid police in racially motivated attacks

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A Denver high school is facing criticism after playing a video advising students to avoid interactions with police in racially motivated attacks. 

CBS affiliate KCNC reported on Wednesday that during a schoolwide assembly, South High School students were shown a video titled “Don’t be a Bystander: 6 Tips for Responding to Racist Attacks” published by the Barnard Center for Research on Women.

One of the six tips mentioned in the five-year-old video was to avoid the police in such incidents due to authorities’ tendency to escalate the situation and “often treat victims as perpetrators of crimes.”

In a statement, the Denver Police Foundation expressed its disappointment and concern, saying sharing this type of advice to students is “irresponsible” and “discourages cooperation of the victim, potentially leading to no accountability of the offender and their behavior.” 

“The Denver Police Foundation supports and commends South High School for engaging their student body in learning how to combat, mitigate and act in the face of terrifying acts of bias-motivated crimes against those in their community, but showing a video that asks their students to directly engage in a potentially violent situation with no training or expertise on how to deescalate AND telling them not to call police is beyond disappointing and discouraging,” the group said in a statement. 

South High School principal Rachel Goss wrote a letter to families of the students, according to KCNC, saying the school’s initial purpose was to provide empowerment for students “who may witness these types of attacks, not to have any sort of negative impact on the longstanding relationship between the Denver Public Schools and the Denver Police Department.” 

In a statement to The Hill, Denver Police Chief Paul M. Pazen said that the department disagreed with the messages being used in the video, adding that his police officers are not trained to view “people of color, gender non-conforming individuals” as criminals. 

“In order to ensure the safety of our students and residents, they are encouraged to call police if a crime is occurring, especially if there is a bias-motivated component so that the incident can be investigated by our specially-trained bias-motivated crime detectives and so that we can provide outreach to those affected,” Pazen said in his statement. “I recognize that some students may be less likely to call police, which is why we will continue to bridge these gaps and ensure the safety of our students.”

The Hill has reached out to Denver Public Schools for more information. 

Tags Colorado Denver Denver Police Department police brutality police racism Police relations racial bias racial bias training Racism Racism in the United States

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