Safe schools bill moves forward

Legislation could put power of expulsion in hands of teachers

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Opponents of Colorado Senate Bill 133 believe the bill will be too cumbersome and bring legal implications into classrooms.

The bill, dubbed the "safe schools" bill, would give teachers the authority to suspend or expel students from their classrooms. District school boards would adopt policies allowing teachers to remove the students.

The bill was passed by the Senate Monday. Gov. Bill Owens supports the bill and believes students need to be in a safe environment in order to learn.

Introduced by Sen. Ken Arnold, R-Westminster, and Rep. Dorothy Gotlieb, R-Denver, SB 133 would allow teachers to remove a student from class for one day. On the third violation, the student could be removed from the class for the remainder of the term. No later than the end of the day of the third violation, the teacher would document the student's behavior and place the comments in the student's file. The next day of class, the school must send a written notice of removal to the parent and must try to contact the parent for a conference.

According to the Colorado Association of School Boards (CASB), the conference could reinstate the student and erase the expulsion. The school principal would mediate the conference.

"This bill causes several issues," Moffat County High School Principal Joel Sheridan said. "It will depend on consistency with teachers and the severity of crime."

CASB agrees and believes the "one size fits all" solution is not as simple as it appears. Officials believe it would only be a matter of time until the inconsistency and lack of due process would land a school district in court. Keeping teachers consistent in their suspension and expulsion criteria would prove to be to difficult, CASB officials said.

Craig Intermediate School Principal Bruce Gregg said the notion of due process may be lost if teachers had complete authority to suspend or expel. Gregg works in collaboration with his teachers if there is a problem and they come up with an appropriate solution. He agrees teachers know students the best but believes working toward a remedy with teachers would tame legal implications.

The bill passed the Senate Appropriations Committee at the end of March.

Along with giving teachers the authority to expel or suspend students, SB 133 would require school boards to adopt an open school policy to allow parents and members of the board reasonable access to observe classes and other activities; a conduct and discipline code, including a dress code policy that may be applied to teachers and other school employees; and, a policy requiring school administrators to report alleged criminal offenses on school property to law enforcement.

CASB agrees, for the most part, with these parts of the bill. Officials understand school personnel have to deal with disruptive students who may be interfering with the learning process, but believe it will be the inconsistency that would do the most harm.

In other legislation news, Senate Bill 173 failed in committee. This bill would have authorized the State Board of Education to issue a state charter to any group applying to operate a state charter school.

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