A chilling irony occurred during a Jan. 23 legislative committee hearing on a school-safety hotline bill.
At the same time that lawmakers were hearing testimony, Jefferson County Public Schools was sending out alerts that a lockout involving some …
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At the same time that lawmakers were hearing testimony, Jefferson County Public Schools was sending out alerts that a lockout involving some of its schools had been lifted following reports that police were investigating a threat at Columbine High School.
Tom Mauser — whose son Daniel was killed during the 1999 Columbine High School shooting — was listening to the testimony from inside a Senate Education Committee hearing room, when he received the alerts on his phone.
“It just goes to show that we have to continue with our vigilance,” Mauser told committee members.
Nothing came of the threats the day of the committee hearing. But what happened at Columbine High School 15 years ago is exactly what the Safe2Tell Hotline was intended to prevent.
Since 1999, the hotline has operated as an anonymous way for students to notify law enforcement of potential campus threats.
But the nonprofit-backed hotline is at risk of shutting down due to a lack of funding. Because of that, lawmakers want the state to take over operations for a program that they believe has been successful in thwarting several school tragedies.
“Rarely in government do we get an opportunity to adopt something that's working,” said Senate Minority Leader Bill Cadman, R-Colorado Springs.
Cadman and Senate President Morgan Carroll, D-Aurora, are co-sponsors of Senate Bill 2, which would transfer operations of the hotline to the Department of Law. The bill also sets aside $250,000 in hotline operational costs.
Students can notify authorities via phone or email of any sort of campus threats they hear about, including shooting plots and incidents of bullying.
Supporters of the legislation point to Safe2Tell statistics, which indicate that from September 2004 through December 2013, the hotline resulted in more than 9,000 tips from students across Colorado.
Gov. John Hickenlooper said during a pre-session press conference where he touted the legislation that the hotline received reports of 16 planned attacks since the beginning of the current school year.
Thornton Police Chief Randy Nelson testified that the hotline is a great tool that gives law enforcement the ability to prevent tragedies, rather than respond to them. In turn, that gives students better peace of mind, he said.
"We know very clearly that if those kids don't feel safe in the school, they're not going to learn," said Nelson.
The bill passed the Senate Education Committee with unanimous support and now heads to the Finance Committee for further consideration. It is expected to sail through both legislative chambers with bipartisan support.
“This program is too valuable for us not to do this,” said Senate Education Committee Chairman Andy Kerr, D-Lakewood.
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