House committee tables bill on reporting of school safety violations

By Jeffrey A. Roberts
CFOIC Executive Director

Hoping to find a compromise that satisfies school districts and law enforcement agencies, the House Education Committee on Monday tabled a contentious bill aimed at improving the reporting of safety and disciplinary violations at Colorado schools.

Less than a third of law enforcement agencies and district attorneys have complied with a 2012 law requiring them to annually report data on criminal offenses committed by students on school campuses and at school events.

HB 15-1273 would implement a less onerous method of collecting that information for law enforcement agencies and prosecutors. It also would require schools to separately report sexual assaults and marijuana-related incidents that are now lumped into other categories.

But lobbyists for both county sheriffs and school districts complained that the bill would be too burdensome.

“It’s very difficult, it’s costly, it’s an unfunded mandate,” said Peg Ackerman, representing County Sheriffs of Colorado. “…You want to take somebody off patrol for an entire week in order to compile some data?”

Jane Urshel, representing school boards and school executives, said the proposed new rules for reporting sexual assaults in schools would codify a federal reporting standard that is complicated and vague. “These reporting requirements result in increased costs and workload for districts to modify data collection systems for reporting this information,” said Urshel, deputy executive director of the Colorado Association of School Boards.

Currently, sexual assaults at schools are included in a broad “other” category. “I’m hoping there aren’t any sexual assaults in our schools, but as of right now we don’t know,” said the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Polly Lawrence, R-Littleton. Lumping sexual assaults in with other assaults, “to me, it tends to communicate that it’s a less serious offense, which I would beg to differ.”

Breaking out pot-related offenses, Lawrence said, would provide important data on how the legalization of recreational marijuana in Colorado has affected drug use among students.

Follow the Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition on Twitter @CoFOIC. Like CFOIC’s Facebook page. Visit CFOIC’s legislature page to track bills in the General Assembly that could affect the flow or availability of information in Colorado.

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