DENVER (CBS4) – A special legislative committee charged with addressing school safety is recommending five bills aimed at saving lives. A recent audit found the state spent nearly $75 million over the last two years on school safety programs but there is no coordination among state departments so there are gaps in some services and duplication of others.
Among those who testified were Susan Marine, whose two children committed suicide, John-Michael Keyes, whose daughter Emily died in a shooting at Platte Canyon High School, and John Castillo, whose son Kendrick gave his life to take down a school shooter.
“Kendrick’s spirit is love for people. It didn’t end May 7th when he stood up to evil and pinned a shooter against the wall and saved people in that classroom in school,” said Castillo. “That wasn’t his final statement. That was the beginning of change.”
The changes recommended by the committee include requiring schools to excuse absences for mental health, assessing the availability of mental health treatment options in each school district and training schools on de-escalation techniques and how to identify kids in crisis.
The committee also approved a bill that requires state departments to address gaps and duplication of services, measure if a program is effective and recommend best practices.
“It’s a bill about establishing priorities, figuring out where we can get the most result for the money we’re spending,” said Sen. Paul Lundeen, one of the committee members.
Committee Chair, Representative Dafna Michaelson Jenet, said the bills advanced will result in action, not more studies, “Everyone who was sitting here grieving with us, we are fighting alongside of them to make sure not one more child dies from violence at school.”
Castillo says there’s still much more to be done, “But, I applaud what’s happening because things need happen, all kinds of different things. I think that we bond and we come together and we conquer this.”
He said he would like to see bills dealing with safe storage of guns, for example, as well as arming some school staff. But, the committee specifically did not address gun legislation because members agreed that every bill they approved would be bi-partisan.
The committee also ordered an audit of state-funded suicide prevention efforts. The legislature will take up the five bills when it is back in session next year.