2012 School Discipline Bill
Colorado's Landmark Legislation is to Eliminate "Zero Tolerance"
SB11-133 created an interim legislative committee to study school discipline and referrals to law enforcement. Its purpose was to address concerns that there may be:
- overly harsh penalties in place to address minor school behavior-related incidents,
- too many school-based incidents excessively referred to law enforcement and therefore ending up being processed in juvenile justice system, and
- too many ethnic minorities being disproportionately disciplined and therefore contributing to an over representation of minority youth entering the juvenile justice system.
The committee met late-July through early-October, 2011. Testimony, in part, addressed the negative aspects of "zero tolerance" discipline policies, use of police discretion, and alternatives to managing school discipline. The committee determined that:
- local school officials need more discretion to manage and respond appropriately to student misconduct,
- Colorado is not providing standardized training for law enforcement officers who handle cases in schools, and
- Colorado does not provide any standardized data collection system for analyzing school-related criminal offenses or their connection to the justice system.
The interim committee's bill moved through the 2012 legislative session as SB12-046 until the last day of the session when it was passed as an amendment to HB12-1345, the School Finance Act.
The most significant results of the bill are:
- the elimination of mandatory expulsions for drugs, weapons, assaults, and robbery,
- grounds for suspension and expulsions changed from "shall" be grounds to "may" be grounds,
- addition of factors to consider in determining disciplinary actions,
- promotion of alternatives to discipline to decrease out-of-school suspensions and expulsions,
- required training for law enforcement officers, and
- reporting requirements regarding law enforcement officer and district attorney actions for school-based incidents.
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