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Dozens of new Colorado laws aimed at improving schools

Posted at 9:41 AM, Aug 06, 2018
and last updated 2018-08-06 11:47:33-04

Summer break is over for many students across Colorado this week. But while they were enjoying some time away from the books, dozens of new education laws went into effect.

The new laws range from school funding to safety to helping low-income students. Here are a few new laws parents should know about:

HB 18-1269: Parents Notice for Student Safety and Protection

This law stemmed from Denver7’s Parents in the Dark investigative series after Chief Investigator Tony Kovaleski found several instances where parents were not notified about a school employee facing felony charges.

The new law requires school districts to notify parents if an employee has been charged with a felony such as child abuse, assault, unlawful sexual behavior, domestic violence, indecent exposure or drug offenses. The law also stipulates that districts must notify parents within two days of the employee being charged and let them know where they were employed at the time the offense allegedly occurred and who they had contact with.

HB 18-272: School Safety Grant Program

This law provides funding to research and implement new school safety measures. The grant can be used on training and developing new emergency protocols for safety.

It will be used to create a collaboration between law enforcement officials, first responders, school district officials and others to come up with an incident response plan.

SB 18-269: School Security Disbursement Program:

This law allows school districts to apply for disbursement money to enhance security on things like building upgrades. The schools can use the money to add more security features like cameras, an alarm system, training for staff and more to keep students secure.

SB 18-151: Bullying Policies Research

This law allocated money for the Colorado Department of Education to research anti-bullying policies in other states and to develop a model to prevent bullying in schools. The research and the proposed policy must be put up on a website by July 1, 2019 for school districts to use as guidance. The anti-bullying policies must be updated every three years.

SB 18-272: Crisis and Suicide Prevention Training:

This law provides funding for a crisis and suicide prevention training program. School districts that apply for the grant will work with the office of suicide prevention and school safety resource center as well as the department of public health and environment to train educators to deal with a crisis.

The bill said that suicide is the leading cause of death for young people in Colorado and the program is meant to help staff recognize the warning signs of a student contemplating taking their own life. The training will help not only educators but all staff to identify and then safely diffuse a crisis situation.

Up to $400,000 a year can be spent to train educators across the state.

SB 18-013: Expand Child Nutrition Lunch Protection Act:

This law expands the number of low-income students who are eligible for free lunches. Previously, only children in kindergarten through fifth grade were eligible for the nutrition school lunch protection program in schools. The law expands the free lunch program to include children in sixth through eighth grade, who only had access to reduced-price lunches before. 

HB 18-1396: AP Exam Fee Grant Program:

This is another law aimed at helping low-income students. It creates a grant program to help the students pay for their AP exams.

SB 18-085: Financial Incentives for Education in Rural Areas:

In one of the state’s many efforts to deal with a growing teacher shortage across Colorado, this new law provides financial incentives for educators to work in rural areas. Under this law, 60 stipends will be created for teachers to continue their education and professional development and have it paid for by the state.

In return, the educators must agree to work in a rural school for at least three years.The bill says rural school districts across the state are disproportionately affected by teacher shortages, which is harming the students’ education. Legislators hope the financial incentives will bring more teachers into underserved schools.

At least three other new laws also work to address teacher shortages by creating a Grow Your Own Teacher program, a teacher residency program and providing other grants to not only encourage more educators to come to Colorado, but keep the teachers who are currently working in the state.