Jovenes Unidos Win Landmark Discipline Reform
Denver, CO - May 9, 2012
Late Wednesday evening, the Colorado General Assembly passed Senate Bill 46 - the safe schools through smart discipline bill - as an amendment to the Colorado School Finance Act. The passage of SB 46 bill represents a landmark victory for the State of Colorado and Padres & Jóvenes Unidos, whose members have organized for over two years for a legislative solution to end zero-tolerance policies and racial disparities in school discipline practices.
The legislative campaign of Senate Bill 46 builds on the decade-long effort by Padres & Jóvenes Unidos to End the School-to-Jail Track, a campaign that aims to stop the criminalization and push-out of youth of color in school; to increase academic achievement by keeping students in school and learning; and to decrease the overrepresentation of Blacks and Latinos in the United States' prison-system.
Efforts to revive Senate Bill 46 - the smart school discipline bill - were a success late Wednesday evening. Initially, SB 46 was shut down on Tuesday, along with nearly 30 other bills, as part of the Republican House Leadership's refusal to vote on a civil unions bill. However, SB 46 was brought back to life as an amendment to the Colorado School Finance Act - House Bill 1345 - and passed unanimously by the Colorado General Assembly late Wednesday evening.
"After working on this smarter discipline bill for two years, I'm thrilled that legislators voted yes to keep kids in school and learning," said Tori Ortiz, a leader of Jóvenes Unidos and student at North High School. "Up to 10,000 kids a year will stay in school and out of the juvenile justice system for minor misbehavior due to our efforts - a win for students and for schools."
Once signed by the governor, the bill will accomplish the following:
1) Give schools discretion over suspensions and eliminate mandatory expulsion (with exception of firearms). Establish graduated discipline systems where the punishment matches the level of the offense, and give communities fairer, more just discipline standards to hold their school districts to.
2) Streamline reporting and data collection of school discipline practices disaggregated by race and other factors, offering new data on how and why kids are disciplined in schools.
3) Enhance the training program for school resource officers so they are better equipped to work with school administrators and reduce the number of kids going to court.
4) Send a clear message to schools to reduce referrals to law enforcement.
Padres & Jóvenes Unidos would like to recognize the legislators, allies, and task force members that championed Senate Bill 46 and made its passage a reality. Co-sponsors of the bill, Linda Newell, Evie Hudak, and B.J. Nikkel showed their fierce advocacy for all Colorado children. And while the shameful politicking of Republican House Leadership denied our sisters and brothers a fair vote on the Colorado Civil Unions act, B.J Nikkel deserves recognition for her support of civil unions. Her support of school discipline reform and civil unions demonstrates her dedication to civil and human rights.
A victory for all
Senate Bill 46 is a victory for all students and families - and Padres & Jóvenes Unidos will fight to ensure it is fully implemented across the state. SB 46 will create healthier and safer school cultures. It will keep students in school and learning. It will help end racial disparities in school discipline, and it represents a victory in a greater state-and nation-wide movement to end the unjust and unnecessary criminalization of youth of color in our schools.