Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Legislators kick off school discipline reform task force

Tomorrow, the Legislative Task Force to Study School Discipline will hold its first meeting at the Colorado State Capitol. The task force was formed to examine problems with discipline policies in public schools and recommend legislation to be introduced for the 2012 legislative session. The task force brings together legislators and citizens who represent a wide array of stakeholders including parents, teachers, school administrators, law enforcement, district attorneys and child advocates.

Last year, there were over 63,000 out-of-school suspensions and 2,238 expulsions across the state. “Zero-tolerance” policies and practices emphasize the long-term removal of students who violate school rules. These practices can undermine good students’ educational opportunities and put them at a greater risk for involvement with the juvenile or criminal justice systems.

Over the last ten years, nearly 100,000 students across the state have been referred to law enforcement by their schools. The majority of these referrals have been for minor offenses that reflect normal adolescent behavior and do not threaten school safety. Behavior that once would have resulted in a trip to the principal’s office or a call home now results in an arrest or a trip to juvenile court. The school discipline crisis in Colorado prevents thousands of students from getting the quality education they deserve, and often undermines school safety.

Senator Linda Newell (D-Littleton), chair of the task force, offered the following comment:

“Tomorrow we take a huge step toward restoring balance and fairness to school discipline policies in our state. I’m excited to begin working with the other members of the task force to identify real solutions and not just talk about the problem.”

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