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School Immunity Waiver

Posted: June 4, 2015 at 12:30 pm by , in Capitol Coverage

A measure to eliminate immunity for public schools for shootings, deaths, sexual assaults and other series injuries that happen to students on school grounds is now law. It goes into effect in July. Governor John Hickenlooper signed the bill on Wednesday. Bente Birkeland has more.

 

A measure to eliminate immunity for public schools for shootings, deaths, sexual assaults and other series injuries that happen to students on school grounds was signed into law on Wednesday. Previously schools had absolute immunity.

The law would cap damages at $900,000 for multiple injuries per incident. Governor Hickenlooper says the state has experienced its fare share of tragedies in schools and hopes the law will make students safer.

“Making sure we’re doing everything we can to prevent school violence and make things right where prevention efforts turned out not to be enough,” said Hickenlooper.

The proposal had bi-partisan support from legislative leaders. “Given Colorado’s recent history regarding school safety, we believed just asking schools to make this a top priority would not have sent a strong enough signal,” said Senate majority leader Republican Mark Scheffel. “Removing the near-blanket immunity that schools have claimed from civil suits was necessary to give this new law teeth.”

The proposal came about because of a tragic shooting at Arapahoe high school in Littleton in 2013. Claire Davis was shot and killed by a fellow student who then turned the gun on himself. Her parents were strong advocates for the measure and lobbied for it its passage at the statehouse. Her father said during a House judiciary testimony that the school knew the shooter was volatile and potentially dangerous. Both parents attended the bill signing with a picture of Claire. Her mother Desiree said she thinks the bill will help change the culture of schools.

“Lets learn from our past mistakes so that every student and teacher will know that Colorado truly cares for their safety in our schools, said Davis.

But opponents said the measure would increase insurance costs for schools, is ambiguous and wouldn’t stop violence.

“It’s almost impossible not to find something that should have been done,” said Representative Yeulin Willet (R- Grand Junction.) “The problem is not our schools. The problem is society.”

While the bill becomes law in July, schools have two years before it goes into full effect. Another bill to study school safety and mental health was also signed into law.