School Discipline Task Force votes to recommend legislation
Senator Newell thanks task force for its work, asks for sustained effort to refine proposal
DENVER— Yesterday, the Legislative Task Force to Study School Discipline reached a major milestone at its final meeting and voted to prepare draft legislation. Over the past decade, nearly 100,000 Colorado students have been referred to law enforcement by their schools, often for minor offenses that would once have only led to a trip to the principal’s office or a phone call home. Since the enactment of “zero-tolerance policies,” students exhibiting normal adolescent behavior have found themselves under arrest and in juvenile court. The purpose of the task force was to examine problems with discipline policies in public schools and recommend legislation for introduction in the coming legislative session.
Senator Linda Newell (D-Littleton) chaired the task force, and she offered the following comment on action taken by the task force, yesterday:
“A statewide conversation about zero-tolerance policies was long overdue. This is a complex problem, and I’m confident we can solve it with the continued work and support of each stakeholder group. The bill draft we approved yesterday is a good first step, but it still needs work. I am proud of what we have accomplished so far, and I am eager to continue working with the coalition to refine this proposal.”
Senator Newell also acknowledged the stakeholder groups who contributed to the work of the task force:
“Through the work of the taskforce, we received input and insight from every stakeholder group, and I want to acknowledge all the time and effort put in by those students, parents, teachers, school administrators, school boards, members of law enforcement, the restorative justice community, community advocates, criminal defense attorneys, prosecutors, advocates people with developmental disabilities, child advocates and legislators. Each group has contributed enormously to our progress so far, and I look forward continuing our work to improve this proposal.”
By law, the task force was given a limited amount of time to meet. However, Senator Newell and the other legislators on the task force will continue to work to refine the proposal passed yesterday by the task force.
The task force was formed by the enactment of Senate Bill 133, which was sponsored this past legislative session by Senator Newell, Senator Evie Hudak (D-Arvada) and Representative B.J. Nikkel (R-Loveland). The task force included broad representation from stakeholder groups, including students and parents, teachers, school administrators and school boards, members of law enforcement, the restorative justice community, community advocates, criminal defense attorneys and prosecutors, people with developmental disabilities, child advocates and legislators.
During the task force meeting today, testimony was heard from students, legal experts and child advocates. The school discipline crisis in Colorado prevents thousands of students from getting the quality education they deserve, and often undermines school safety. Last year, there were over 63,000 out-of-school suspensions and 2,238 expulsions across the state. “Zero-tolerance” policies and practices emphasize the long-term removal of students who violate school rules. These practices can undermine good students’ educational opportunities and put them at a greater risk for involvement with the juvenile or criminal justice systems.