Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Safer Schools Act of 2011 advances

Safer schools means felon-free schools, says a measure approved Monday by the Senate State, Veterans, & Military Affairs Committee. Under the legislation, felons need not apply except under narrowly prescribed circumstances.

Dubbed the Safer Schools Act of 2011, House Bill 1121, sponsored by Rep. Robert Ramirez, R-Westminster, and Sen. Keith King, R-Colorado Springs, places a ban on the hiring of non-classified public school employees, such as janitors or kitchen help, who have been convicted of a felony.

Felony child abuse, any violent crimes and unlawful sexual-conduct convictions would trigger an outright ban on employment. Domestic violence and drug offenses would mean a five-year waiting period after conviction before employment is a possibility in schools.

King said the measure is needed to ensure the safety of children while they are at school.

“We want to make sure that the safety of our children is protected,” said King. “Schools are generally not an appropriate place for felons to be.”

Sen. Betty Boyd, D-Lakewood, voted against the measure and said the bill goes too far by excluding felons in positions that do not have direct contact with children.

“Former felons have so many issues to get jobs. At a time when they are trying to get their life together–this sounds great–but I’m bothered to say that we are going to set up another barrier,” said Boyd. “Some positions may be appropriate for some felons.”

King said non-contact positions in one district may have opportunities for contact in another, and the risk is too great where children are concerned.

“The janitors come in contact with students as do kitchen staff in a lot of schools” said King. “We have to draw the line somewhere when it comes to lifting barriers for felons. I say we draw the line with our children in a school setting.”

The bill is now headed to the Senate Appropriations Committee before it can head to the floor of the Senate for a full debate.

Via – Colorado News Agency

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