Colorado Senate Bill 213 (SB15-213) is an effort to make schools liable, financially, for “serious bodily injury” suffered by a student that “involves a substantial risk of death, a substantial risk of serious permanent disfigurement, or a substantial risk of protracted loss or impairment of the function of any part or organ of the body. ” Put plainly, it introduces the concept of a school being negligent for not forseeing, for example, the Columbine or Arapahoe shootings.
We believe that not only does this put already financially over-strapped schools at high risk, and puts a price on the life of a student (payouts for any single student are capped at $350,000) it also focuses on the wrong things.
The key to preventing school shootings is to prevent children from evolving into school shooters. And the key to that is a) addressing the alienation that many boys feel in middle school and high school, b) stopping the “you don’t matter because you’re a boy” message that boys receive from schools and society during those years, and c) identifying those boys who are at risk of heading in the direction that would lead them to become a school shooter, and to intervene.
Prevention through intervention.
Here is a summary, from the proposed bill itself, of SB 15-213, also called “A BILL FOR AN ACT CONCERNING THE LIMITED WAIVER OF GOVERNMENTAL IMMUNITY FOR CLAIMS INVOLVING PUBLIC SCHOOLS FOR INJURIES RESULTING FROM INCIDENTS OF SCHOOL VIOLENCE” And here is the full text of SB 213.
Below the summary are email links to email each of the four sponsors of this bill – please be sure to take a moment to let each one know what you think of this proposed legislation. (And then, please share with us in a comment what you told them!)
The bill amends the “Colorado Governmental Immunity Act” (CGIA) to recognize that a 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, andothers are within the school facilities or are participating in school-sponsored activities. The bill also amends the CGIA to waive sovereign immunity in connection with claims against public school districts and charter schools in an action for serious bodily injury or death resulting from an incident of school violence that occurs on property of a school or during school-sponsored activities on or after January 1, 2013.
For purposes of the bill, “serious bodily injury” means a bodily injury that, either at the time of the actual injury or at a later time, involves a substantial risk of death, a substantial risk of serious permanent disfigurement, or a substantial risk of protracted loss or impairment of the function of any part or organ of the body. The maximum amount of damages that may be recovered from a school district or charter school in an action brought under the CGIA in a single occurrence is subject to the limits on damages under the CGIA ($350,000 to one person in any single occurrence and $900,000 for injuries to multiple persons in any single occurrence; except that no person may recover more than $350,000). In addition, if there is an award of damages on behalf of plaintiffs, the court may also award to the plaintiff attorney fees and costs in an amount not to exceed $350,000. The bill specifies that it shall not be construed to constitute a waiver of sovereign immunity if the injury arises from any act, or failure to act, of an employee of a school district or a charter school if the act is the type of act for which the public employee would be or heretofore has been personally immune from liability.
The bill specifies that a public school district or charter school shall also have the same immunity as a public employee for any act or failure to act for which a public employee would be or heretofore has been personally immune from liability. In order to promote vigorous discovery of events leading to an incident of violence in schools, the bill states that a defendant may not make an offer of judgment until discovery has been completed. The bill further states that if any defendant refuses to answer any complaint, if a default judgment is entered for failure to answer a complaint, or if a defendant confesses liability in an action brought against a public school district, the court shall allow full discovery upon request of the plaintiff. The bill also precludes any rule of law imposing absolute or strict liability from being applied in any action against a public school employee for serious bodily injury or death suffered as a result of the breach of th e duty of care established by the bill. No liability is to be imposed in any such action unless negligence is proven. The bill makes conforming amendments. The bill applies to claims asserted against a school district or charter school resulting from an incident of school violence occurring on or after January 1, 2013.
Again, you can read the full text of A BILL FOR AN ACT CONCERNING THE LIMITED WAIVER OF GOVERNMENTAL IMMUNITY FOR CLAIMS INVOLVING PUBLIC SCHOOLS FOR INJURIES RESULTING FROM INCIDENTS OF SCHOOL VIOLENCE here.
Then, let the sponsors of this proposed law know how you feel about it. The sponsors of this bill are:
Senator Bill Cadman
Senator Mark Scheffel
Representative Dickey Lee Hullinghorst
Represenative Crisanta Duran