How we treat our kids and educate them says volumes about our values and who we are as a society.
A little over a decade ago, zero-tolerance policies toward school disciplinary issues were enacted and many schools in Colorado acquired a School Resource Officer. Thus began the new era of full-time police presence in most of our schools.
Every year, about 10,000 students from around Colorado are sent to law enforcement by their schools. In the last ten years, nearly 100,000 students from every corner of the state - in rural, suburban and metro areas alike - have been handed over to the police for issues that mostly used to be resolved in the principal's office.
As a result, we are sending more and more of our youth out into the world, not with a high school diploma, but with a criminal record - and that is a recipe for disaster.
Now, particularly in Colorado, the most "policed" group in the country - outside of prison and jail inmates - is public school students. This school-to-prison-pipeline can destroy families, it costs the state money once students are filed into the corrections system and it creates a culture of recidivism. At the same time, there is a wealth of evidence that intervention and education are better than citations and probations. We know there is a better way.
That is why this year we introduced bipartisan legislation with Senate Bill 133 to create a short-term discipline task force which will assess the current strategies of juvenile justice in the education system and identify best practices many districts already employ. The task force will recommend evidence-based solutions to keep students in school and reduce the criminalization of school-based behaviors. We will then bring those recommendations forward to the Legislature next year.
The task force will include members of the Senate and the House as well as citizens and experts with knowledge and experience in the areas of school discipline, such as teachers and administrators. We have heard from youth around the state that these policies are damaging their schools and their educations and that they want the legislature to act.
Who is the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition?
Our chief areas of interest include drug policy reform, women in prison, racial injustice, the impact of incarceration on children and families, the problems associated with re-entry and stopping the practice of using private prisons in our state.
If you would like to be involved please go to our website and become a member.
Thursday, June 09, 2011