Opinion: School violence reporting in Colorado needs to be more transparent

From The Colorado Statesman:  By Rep. Polly Lawrence (R-Littleton)

In December 2013, a heartbreaking event occurred in Colorado when a student entered Arapahoe High School and proceeded to shoot and kill one of his classmates before turning the gun on himself. This tragedy, which shook communities across Colorado, revealed significant gaps in the laws requiring schools to report violent incidents. Due to a clerical error in the reporting process for these types of incidents in schools, this shooting did not appear on Arapahoe High School’s school violence report for the 2013-14 school year.

In response, I have introduced House Bill 1273 to streamline the reporting process. This bill not only corrects the clerical error that led to the lack of reporting of the school shooting at Arapahoe High School, it creates an efficient, easily accessible database for parents. The bill consolidates all the reports from each school in Colorado, starting with data from the 2013-14 school year, and makes it easily accessible on the Colorado Department of Education’s website. Additionally, my bill addresses another disparity in these reports surrounding the issue of sexual assaults and marijuana incidents on school campuses.

Currently, sexual assaults which occur on school campuses are not reported individually; rather they are reported in a more generic category, failing to capture the seriousness of these violations. House Bill 1273 requires schools to report sexual assaults on their campuses or at their sponsored events as a separate category, providing complete transparency of schools’ management of violent incidents. This grants sexual assaults the same weight as first- and second-degree assaults on these violence reports. Additionally, it provides information that support groups can utilize to give victims the assistance and relief they require as well as take steps to prevent future incidents on campuses.

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