the Denver Post
Few events have shaped school discipline policies the way the 1999 Columbine High School massacre has — not just in Colorado but around the nation.
Zero tolerance became a catchphrase for "doing-everything-possible-to-make-sure-this-never-happens-again."
And we get that. Keeping children safe is the very least we should expect of our schools.
It has become apparent, however, that too many children are being suspended and expelled for mundane matters, and the system needs to recalibrate.
We are glad to see such an effort embodied in Senate Bill 46, a bipartisan measure in the state legislature that is the product of hours of meetings and input from educators.
The bill puts disciplinary flexibility where it belongs — with the districts. It boils zero tolerance down to its core, which is a prohibition on guns in schools.
It directs districts to create their own disciplinary codes, shaped to fit the students and issues that make each district unique. It encourages districts to limit out-of-school suspensions and expulsions. And it encourages the use of peer mediation and restorative justice.
Some, however, are concerned the bill would amount to another unfunded mandate. Costs are deeply concerning to many districts struggling to absorb funding cuts.
Jane Urschel, deputy executive director of the Colorado Association of School Boards, said that's why the bill emphasizes flexibility.
Beyond the three dozen Front Range school districts, the majority of the state's 178 districts are in rural areas. Restorative justice, which focuses on repairing the harm done, could take very different forms in rural and urban districts.
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.
Tuesday, January 24, 2012
the Denver Post