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El Paso County Colorado District 49

New bill holds schools liable for violent acts

On June 3, 2015, Gov. John Hickenlooper signed into law Senate Bill 15-213, the Claire Davis Safety Act, which waives government immunity for schools in cases of school violence. The law will take effect July 1, 2017.According to the bill, ìA duty of reasonable care exists with respect to public school districts, charter schools, and their employees to exercise reasonable care to protect students, faculty, staff, and others from harm that is reasonably foreseeable while such students, faculty, staff, and others are within the school facilities or are participating in school-sponsored activities.îThe bill is named after Claire Davis, a 17-year-old student at Arapahoe High School in Centennial, Colorado, who was shot Dec. 13, 2013 by a fellow student, Karl Pierson. Pierson shot and killed himself at the scene, and Davis died eight days later.Dave Pratt, safety and security specialist with Falcon School District 49, said SB 213 states that schools and districts can now be held liable for a violent act like a school shooting. ìIf someone wants to sue a school, and they can prove negligence on the part of the school, the school can be held liable,î he said.According to an article posted on FOX31ís website June 3, 2015, Davisí parents reached a settlement out of court with the Littleton Public Schools after it became clear that Pierson had made prior threats to teachers and the school. In the settlement, the Davis family agreed not to sue the district if all the reports about the incident were made public.Dave Watson, D 49 director of safety and security, said the bill allows parents and guardians easier access to investigative reports on school incidents. The bill also assigns a monetary amount that parents or guardians could seek from a settlement or lawsuit.According to SB 213, a school district or charter school could be sued for $350,000 for injuries to any one person in any single occurrence and up to $900,000 for injuries to multiple people in any single occurrence, with no one person receiving more than $350,000. The bill can only be activated by a crime of violence, which is defined as actual or attempted murder, first degree assault or violent sexual assault.Pratt said the bill will help Colorado school districts that need guidance on safety measures to protect their faculty, staff and students. ìFor school districts that struggle with safety, this is going to pull them forward,î he said.Watson said the D 49 community will not see much change in how safety is handled because the district has been training and preparing for potentially violent situations for some time. ìWe are going with the addition of maybe a change in a couple of training requirements,î he said. ìBut we are already compliant with state law, so parents really are not going to see much change on the surface because a lot of what we have already been doing is what the bill is going to require.îMatt Meister, D 49 director of communications, said, ìIn 2014, one of the things that was specified by the approved mill levy override was resources for security, like equipment and personnel. There is not a lot that will change or even has changed because we were already doing those things.ìSome of this act came from deep wounds that our state is still dealing with. Being a district that is fully committed to safety, this has not had a big impact for District 49. We do not need a state law or statute to tell us the safety of our staff and students is important. That is paramount to what we do each and every day.î

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