Schools are both centers for academic development and centers for well-being, community, and character development. The role of schools has been elevated by a pandemic that caused immeasurable social disruption and isolation of students and erected barriers to academic achievement and youth success. “School climate” encompasses several aspects of a student’s experience at school, including their own engagement and sense of belonging, school safety and discipline practices, social emotional learning, and culturally responsive education.
Research indicates that students are better able to learn when they feel safe and supported by peers and adults, and that connection also acts as a protective factor against youth and adolescent school-based violence and suicide. We must, therefore, prioritize the creation of safe, healthy and inclusive learning environments by investing in comprehensive support and training that is responsive to both students’ and educators’ social and emotional needs.
Recent Policy Successes
HB22-1376 (Herod & Young/ Priola & Winter) Supportive Learning Environments for K-12 Students updates Colorado’s policies, practices and data frameworks to better measure and support positive school climates. It requires the Department of Education to gather data and create accessible, annually updated reports with consistent data concerning chronic absenteeism rates, suspensions, expulsions, and the number of students handcuffed or restrained, among other indicators of school climate. It also updates restraint and seclusion policies and limits practices that have been shown to harm students, such as handcuffing. The bill requires the development of a model policy to promote best practices and proper training for school security staff.
SB22-147 (Kolker & Sonnenberg/Young & Pelton) Concerning Behavioral Health Care Integration Services for Children appropriates $5 million in federal stimulus funds to the School Health Professional Grant Program. The bill also appropriates $1.5 million in federal stimulus funds for school-based health centers. Additionally, the bill creates the Colorado Pediatric Psychiatry Consultation and Access Program (CoPPCAP) and appropriates $4.6 million in federal stimulus funds to the program.
HB20-1427 (Caraveo & McCluskie/Fileds & Moreno) Cigarette Tobacco And Nicotine Products Tax to Support Health and Early Childhood Education Programs referred a question to voters to raise taxes on nicotine products to fill budget deficits caused by the pandemic, including public education funding, and also establish a universal preschool program that targets the greatest resources to those with the most barriers.
SB19-204 (Story & Arndt/Bird) Public School Local Accountability Systems improves local school district accountability by creating grants to support innovative local accountability systems that supplement and inform the state system.