DENVER (CBS4)– Students pleaded with state lawmakers to come up with a plan to keep kids from dying in school. The emotional testimony came during a special hearing at the state Capitol on Thursday.
After the STEM School Highlands Ranch shooting in May, lawmakers aren’t waiting until next legislative session to address school safety. They formed a special committee that’s meeting in the middle of summer.
Lawmakers heard from school security, social workers, public health and education experts, as well as parents, teachers, and students. Despite a significant decline in school violence since the Columbine High School shooting in April 1999, there is a lot of fear and a lot of uncertainty about what exactly will improve school safety.
Student Ethan Reed among those who testified.
“I’m only 16 years old and I have already been through so many experiences in which my life or others fell at risk for being harmed. It’s unbelievable,” said Reed.
Reed told lawmakers he’s afraid to go to school; afraid that what happened to his friend at STEM School Highlands Ranch could happen to him.
“My friend continued saying that he me saw blood splattered on the floor while he ran outside of the school and closed eyes so not see anything else. A few days after shooting he went to the doctor and was diagnosed with survivor’s guilt, post traumatic disorder, stress, anxiety and depression…” he testified through tears, “Sorry.”
He isn’t alone. Studies show half of all students worry about school violence even though reports of violence in school are down.
“The trends are actually, slightly positive. They’re only slightly positive because children still being harmed. And so we fight for every child,” said Sen. Paul Lundeen, a Republican representing Monument.
He said that means figuring out what’s working and what’s not. Experts told lawmakers there is no evidence video cameras, ID badges and anonymous tip lines make a difference. Research is mixed on school resource officers.
“Let’s find the things that are giving value and expand those,” said Lundeen.
Mental health support is one of those things.
“We cannot ignore the skyrocketing suicide rate,” said committee chair Rep. Dafna Michelson Jenet, a Democrat representing Commerce City.
She said they are also looking at what’s working in other states.
“There’s no comprehensive program we’ve seen that feels like the gold standard and Colorado should be the place that reveals gold standard for school safety.”
Reed hopes they do, “I do hope this committee makes sure no one has to go through what I have.”
The committee consists of an equal number of Democrats and Republicans from the Senate and House so whatever legislation comes out of it will be bipartisan. This is the first of four meetings.
LINK: School Safety Committee