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Colorado is a big step closer to ending zero tolerance

Colorado students, parents, community members and organizational allies have made a significant stride in the effort to end the school-to-jail pipeline with the passage of legislation that calls on leaders to formulate alternatives to zero tolerance policies.
 
This is the latest and one of the most significant developments in a growing movement to challenge the wisdom of zero-tolerance policies in schools and other policies and practices that put one-size-fits all solutions in front of common sense and the well-being of our young people. 
 
Colorado is joined by other states and cities coast to coast – from North Carolina and Denver and Baltimore to Los Angeles – that are rethinking zero-tolerance policies and putting into place more constructive solutions that aim to keep kids in school, as a Washington Post article highlighted today.
 
In Colorado, Padres & Jóvenes Unidos members have been instrumental in focusing legislative attention on the issue. 
 
Colorado’s legislation, SB 133, passed last week with bipartisan support and was signed today into law by Gov. Hickenlooper. The bill’s overwhelming bipartisan support underscored the need for a legislative solution.
SB 133 will create an interim committee comprised of legislators, students, parents, educators and community members, to study the issue of school discipline and provide legislative recommendations for the 2012 session. 
 
While SB 133 is a step forward in ending the school-to-jail track in Colorado, there is much to be done in Colorado – but there is no doubt that supporters will act with urgency. The next step will involve the measure’s supporters organizing to influence decision makers at the state Capitol, educate local communities and build a strong youth-led movement to maintain momentum in the effort.
 
Colorado is on the right track. Zero-tolerance responses have no place in education, as they leave no room for school administrators and teachers to use their own common sense to handle such situations and to help children learn from their mistakes in the structured environment of the schoolhouse.
Educators need to be focused on teaching and nurturing children – not putting them on the path to incarceration. 
 
With stark statistics such as the U.S. Department of Education’s research indicates that nationally more than 3 million students each year are suspended and nearly 100,000 more are expelled, from kindergarten through twelfth grade, there is no doubt reason to be concerned about the counterproductive nature of zero-tolerance policies.
 
We applaud efforts such as Colorado’s to eliminate these counterproductive policies.

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