UPDATE: The bill described below was amended following the publication of this report. A section about suspensions and expulsions for bullying is no longer part of it, however that description still remains in the text below, because it was part of the bill when CBS4 reported on it on April 22. The amended bill passed the full House on April 27 and is headed to the Senate.
DENVER (CBS4)– Some state lawmakers say it’s time school bullies faced real consequences. A new bill would rewrite the state’s bullying prevention policy and require school districts to adopt it. Right now, they’re encouraged to do so.READ MORE: National Park Service Wants To Increase Entrance Fee To Bent's Old Fort
Rick Padilla is among those pushing for the bill.
“I would have never have chosen this path nor would I want another family to walk this path,” said Padilla.
The path that led him to the state Capitol is paved in anguish, grief, and unimaginable loss. Two years ago, his son Jack, a freshman at Cherry Creek High School, ended his life, and Padilla embarked on a mission to end the bullying that contributed to his son’s death.
He says prosecutors told him the law wouldn’t allow them to bring charges, “So I thought, okay, let’s go legislatively.”
He found an ally in state Rep. Lisa Cutter, “I’m such an admirer of anyone who takes their personal pain and turns it around to do good. So I committed to following through with him on this journey.”
Cutter has introduced a bill to rewrite the state’s bullying prevention policy with input from parents like Padilla. Among other things, the policy will define bullying, including cyberbullying and make it grounds for suspension or expulsion.
The bill also requires schools to report each incident of bullying to the Department of Education, as well as how the school responded.READ MORE: Highway 160 Reopens After Heavy Snow Forced Safety Closure Over La Veta Pass
Padilla says he will also push to make sure that information is easily accessible to parents and students. He says he will also push to make sure both kids who are bullied and those accused of bullying have due process.
“If a parent is not satisfied with the outcome of the decision at the school level, it can go up to the district level, if they’re not satisfied, then up to the board level. So you want to be able to let parents know in plain English, here are the options you have in terms of recourse,” said Padilla.
Too many kids he says feel their only recourse is suicide and too many schools, he says, turn a blind eye.
“If I can build a platform for young people to speak their truth, we’re getting a lot closer to addressing these issues. It’s too late for us but it’s not too late for us to make a change,” said Padilla.
The CDC says 15% of high school kids in Colorado say they’ve been bullied in the past year. The bill passed its first committee unanimously.
If you’re thinking about suicide, are worried about a friend or loved one, or would like emotional support, the Lifeline network is available 24/7 across the United States. Your call is confidential and free.
Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 741741.MORE NEWS: Englewood Police: Officer-Involved Shooting Takes Place Outside Apartment Complex
LINK: Mental Health Resources