Denver -- Monday’s release of a sometimes-damning report detailing how Littleton Public Schools officials missed warning signs that might have prevented the 2013 shooting death of Arapahoe High School student Claire Davis not only brought a close to one family’s long, painful struggle to get the truth about what precipitated the murder. The report also includes numerous observations and recommendations that lawmakers and school administrators can use for continuing efforts to bolster public school safety in Colorado.
The report, done by the University of Colorado's Center for the Study and Prevention of Violence and the University of Northern Colorado's Department of Criminal Justice, was one result of a school safety initiative personally spearheaded last session by all four of the General Assembly’s top leaders -- President Bill Cadman (R-Colorado Springs) and Majority Leader Mark Scheffel (R-Parker) in the Senate and Speaker Dickey Lee Hullinghorst (D-Boulder) and Majority Leader Crisanta Duran (D-Denver) in the House.
Their efforts produced two first-in-the-nation pieces of legislation. SB15-214 created the committee that commissioned the report, which will be discussed in more detail at a hearing Friday, at 1:30 pm in Senate Room 271. SB15-213 (also known as the Claire Davis School Safety Act) for the first time required school administrators to make campus safety a top priority, equal in importance to their mandate to educate. It also waives governmental immunity for school districts for homicides and assaults on school property.
“Great credit is due Michael and Desiree Davis for honoring their daughter’s memory by continuing to engage on the school safety issue, entering into an arbitration process that led to the release of this incredibly important report,” Scheffel said. “The facts and recommendations it contains will benefit all Coloradans, as we continue efforts to make public schools safer places to learn, teach and work.”
“We passed the Claire Davis School Safety Act, to ensure that when violence occurs in our schools we are able to get to the bottom of the failures that led to those incidents, learn from them, and prevent future tragedies like the one that took Claire Davis’ life in 2013,” Duran said.
“This new law incentivizes school districts to develop and enforce procedures to deal with student behavioral issues,” Hullinghorst said. “The goal is to help kids in crisis to get help -- or get separated from their classmates -- before tragedy happens.”
Cadman urged Colorado school administrators to get a copy of the report and study it closely, with an eye toward avoiding the mistakes it highlights and acting on relevant recommendations.
“Lawmakers will of course be studying this must-read report for steps we can take to ensure that parents can send their kids off to school with confidence, knowing their safety is a top priority,” said Cadman, “but school administrators need not, and should not wait on lawmakers to institute the report’s recommendations, where they apply. Improving school safety is a collective responsibility and local school districts should embrace opportunities to do so."
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