Religion, safety top education agenda

Legislature deals with several bills

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After almost a month of legislation, Colorado lawmakers are in full swing and educational bills are becoming more prevalent. As of Monday, many educational bills were gaining attention, but two could have a direct impact on Moffat County.

The first bill, Senate Bill 133, attempts to assure student safety in the classroom. Introduced by Sen. Ken Arnold, R-Westminster, and Rep. Dorothy Gotlieb, R-Denver, one of the major features of the bill would require each local school district to adopt a policy granting any teacher the authority to suspend a student from class if the student violates the conduct code.

After three such suspensions, the teacher may "expel" the student from class.

"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."

Another issue raised by Sheridan was what to do with the student after being suspended from a class. Moffat County High School has an open campus policy so the suspended student will be able to leave school grounds.

The principal and assistant principal deal with suspensions and expulsions (and other administrators if needed) under the Moffat County School District policy.

According to the Colorado Association of School Boards (CASB), other provisions in the 59-page bill include a creation of a state alternative charter school program that would serve expelled students and current funding for charter school students would be based on the state average per pupil revenue times 11.5 percent for each student enrolled. It also calls for an adoption of an "open school" policy allowing visitors reasonable access to classrooms.

The CASB stated, "with so much thrown into one package, it is likely the CASB position will be 'work to amend.' We do have our work cut out for us. We understand that the sponsors are viewing this as work in progress."

On Friday, the Legislature was abuzz with a bill attempting to once again bridge the gap between religion and education. Sen. Norma Anderson, R-Lakewood, and Rep. Lynn Hefley, R-Denver, introduced Senate Bill 114. If passed it would require schools to post the Ten Commandments in every classroom and in the main entryway, and have a moment of silence before a school day begins.

Sheridan questions the plan and "why it has to be forced in schools."

Members of the clergy were on hand during the proceedings and dismayed of the idea, saying the Ten Commandments cannot "be turned into a secular code of conduct" and would "embroil districts in controversy," according to the CASB. Voting on the bill was postponed until later this week.

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