Lawmakers look to re-evaluate school discipline

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Posted Thu, Mar 10, 2011

Evie Hudak

DENVER – Two state senators on March 8, proposed a bill that would examine the use of law enforcement for student discipline at local schools.

Evie Hudak (D-Westminster) and Linda Newell (D-Littleton) have proposed a bill asking the Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice to study the use of law enforcement in school. The bill was reviewed Tuesday by the Judiciary Committee. Despite finding it to be too costly, the senators plan to amend the bill to look at previously recorded data.

“We’re looking at our options now so we haven’t made a final decision. We know there will be some sort of amendment for sure,” Sen. Newell said.

Linda Newell

The senators, joined by a group of activists argue that the police are too often involved in disciplinary actions in schools. Many see this as a result of the “zero-tolerance” policies that grew popular among schools after the Columbine incident in 1999.

DPS spokeswoman, Kirsty Armstrong explained that schools have police officers on campus who may give tickets to students at their discretion.

Padres y Jovenes Unidos, an organization who promotes educational justice, claims that out of 10,000 incidents that were referred to law enforcement, 60 percent were “disorderly conduct, minor fights, disobedience or detrimental behavior.”

Mike Vigil, whose son was involved in an altercation that was referred to the police claims that the school used the police as a shield to avoid liability.

“It’s not just a school fight anymore, there was no meeting with the principal. The police were called before the parents got to the school,” Vigil said.

Advocates of the bill argue the involvement of police in student conflicts keep children from getting the educational experience they deserve. Vigil echoed their statements saying that he saw his son’s grades drop immediately after the incident.

Newell and Hudak are currently reviewing the bill with committee members and the Judiciary Chair to make it more cost-effective.

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