School Safety Bills Make the Grade with Judiciary Committee

Senate Republican leaders came out strongly yesterday in support of SB-213, a bill that will grant a limited waiver of government immunity, allowing parents to sue for damages when public school officials don't take "reasonable care” to protect the safety of students and staff.

companion bill also heard by the Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday, SB-214creates a committee to study school safety issues.

Leading off testimony in support of SB-213 were Senate President Bill Cadman (R-Colorado Springs) and Majority Leader Mark Scheffel (R-Parker), demonstrating the personal interest both men have taken in making schools safer.

It’s pretty simple, really,President Cadman said in explaining SB-213. “Public school parents should have a reasonable expectation, when they send their kids off to school, that school officials will have taken reasonable care to provide for their safety, just as they provide for their education. This bill makes that expectation and responsibility crystal clear.”

Majority Leader Scheffel testified that the most common reaction he’s gotten, when explaining the bill’s purpose to people, is their amazement that this isn’t already written into law. “There’s nobody I’ve met who didn’t think that maintaining a reasonably safe environment for students isn’t alreadythe legal responsibility of schools,” Scheffel said. “That indicates to me that it’s long past time to make this responsibility explicit and to put enough teeth behind it to assure school compliance.”

Scheffel credited Michael and Desiree Davis, the parents of 2013 Arapahoe High School shooting victim Claire Davis, for inspiring both measuresthrough their persistent pursuit of answers and accountability in the death of their child. Cadman lit a candle of remembrance for Claire Davis on opening day of the 2015 session.

“I want to thank Desiree and Michael Davisfor working so hard to put the school safety issue front and center, despite the unimaginablepersonal pain and loss they must have felt after the death of their child,” said Scheffel.

Michael Davisrecounted for the Committee the wall of secrecy he and his wife faced in trying to get answers from the Littleton School District about events preceding the murder. He said he believes SB-213 will force school districts to be more open and accountable, “so that no family in the future will have to rely on that provision of the law” to get answers. “It’s for those families that we need to pass this bill,he said.

Desiree Davis linked introduction of the bills with the school district’s recent decision to share more information with the family. Political pressure and the couple’s persistence means “I will get my answers,” concluded Mrs. Davis. “Please don’t make the next mother beg for answers for why her child was killed in a public school in the state of Colorado.

Both bills passed the Judiciary Committee and now move to the Appropriations Committee and Senate floor for action.

 

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