DENVER, April 23, 2013 /PRNewswire-iReach/ -- With one voice, Colorado lawmakers have approved a school safety bill that increases the role of school resource officers (SROs) within the Colorado Safe Schools Act (C.R.S. 22-32-109.1), State Senator Steve King announced today through the online portal, School Safety Summit.
Monday, the Colorado House passed Senate Bill 13-138, concerning school resource officer programs, on a unanimous vote. In March, the bill, introduced by King, was unanimously approved by the Senate. In the House, the bill was carried by Representatives Leroy Garcia and Mike McLachlan.
The measure adds SROs to the list of community partners defined in Colorado law as most essential in helping schools improve their safety plans, train in multi-hazard emergency response, and practice interoperable communications with local first responders.
The bill also requires the state to provide school safety grant writing assistance to schools and districts over the next five years.
Over the past several weeks, SB13-138 was reviewed by five committees: the Senate Committees on Judiciary, Education, and Appropriations, and the House Committees on Education and Appropriations.
Asked about the effectiveness of SRO programs, King responded that school principals and superintendents often ask public safety agencies to provide SROs to their schools, and SROs often encounter and must deal with child custody issues, bullying, restraining orders, drugs, crime, gang problems, and suicide prevention. He confirmed that SROs are Certified Peace Officers and are fully armed.
Many testified in support, none in opposition.
Mo Canady, representing the National Association of School Resource Officers (NASRO), said that it is important for an SRO to be properly selected and trained. He discussed conversations between NASRO and the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP). He also spoke about the Colorado Association of School Resource Officers (CASRO).
Alan Ford, noted school architect, stated that SROs can play a valuable and critical role in the process of designing school facilities since SROs understand Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) and know what areas of a school building need special attention for safety purposes.
Maria Mitchell, representing the 911 Center in Park County, said that SROs are an asset for her office.
Mike Violette, representing the Colorado Fraternal Order of Police, spoke about the role of SROs in promoting citizenship, and the effects of reduced funding for SROs.
Chris Olson, representing the County Sheriffs of Colorado, spoke about the importance of SROs being part of a school's faculty and key players in how school incidents are managed in Colorado schools. He said that SROs are normally stationed in middle schools and high schools, but that they should also be stationed in elementary schools.
When Olson explained that SRO funding primarily comes from local law enforcement agencies, Senator Andy Kerr stated that the bill is particularly beneficial to the smaller school districts and smaller law enforcement agencies.
Peg Ackerman, also representing County Sheriffs of Colorado, said that one of the most important aspects of the bill is the requirement to hire a state consultant to help school districts with SRO grant opportunities.
Chief John Jackson, representing the Colorado Association of Chiefs of Police (CACP), said that the bill is the next step in making schools safer, noting that there are about 200 SROs across 25 percent of school districts in Colorado.
Greg Keasling, representing Pueblo School District 70, observed that the bill focuses on community partners and relationships that advance positive school climate. Ed Smith, Superintendent of Pueblo School District 70, explained that school administrators understand school operations, but rely on community partners to help put in motion best practices in school safety.
Tim Moore, representing Douglas County Sheriff's Office, stated that there are 80 school campuses in Douglas County and that the provisions of the bill will help in planning for crises and disasters. In discussing the way his district handles SRO salaries, Moore said that Douglas County has a fifty-fifty split between the school district and the Sheriff's Office. He added that elementary schools typically do not have SROs.
Stephen Hoban, 29-year veteran of Colorado's Front Range school districts, described his experience as a school safety leader in applying for grants. He discussed several funding strategies, many of which he reviewed as moderator of the School Safety Summit chaired by Senator King in January at the State Capitol.
Christine Harms, Director of the Colorado School Safety Resource Center (CSSRC) in the Department of Public Safety, came to the table before two committees to answer questions. The CSSRC will contract for grant writing, provide and distribute information on the role of SROs, and provide guidance to the Peace Officers Standards and Training Board (P.O.S.T. board) about training SROs as community partners.
For an overview of CSSRC activities, download this year's CSSRC Legislative Report at www.SchoolSafetySummit.org/cssrc2012.pdf. To follow how SB13-138 will be implemented across Colorado, bookmark www.SchoolSafetySummit.org.
Media Contact: Jia Meeks Office of Senator Steve King, 303-548-3816, firstname.lastname@example.org
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SOURCE Office of Senator Steve King