DENVER, CO– The House Education Committee today passed SB21-013 and HB21-1221, legislation that would address COVID-19 related learning disruptions and prevent bullying in schools.
“Building back stronger means making sure that every child in our state gets through this school year and the next with the skills and knowledge they need to thrive,” said Denver Public Schools Director Rep. Jennifer Bacon, D-Denver. “Every student in Colorado should have the opportunity to address their specific learning needs. I’m proud of the package of bills we’ve developed to address the disrupted learning caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.”
“Students have been through so much the last year; we have to do everything we can to ensure learning loss related to COVID-19 and the disruption of in-person learning is reversed,” said Rep. Meg Froelich, D-Englewood. “This bill will help school districts across the state access the best practices they’ll need to work with students and help them get where they need to be.”
SB21-013, which is sponsored by Representatives Jennifer Bacon and Meg Froelich, directs the Department of Education to identify and collect resources to help school districts address learning disruptions. It will include products, strategies, and services that have been demonstrated to identify and address learning disruption experienced as a result of disruptions to learning during the COVID-19 pandemic. The bill also directs local education providers to expand students’ access to online courses currently provided on the Colorado Digital Learning Solutions platform, and to communicate the availability of these learning recovery opportunities to students’ families. The bill passed 7-2.
“Bullying harms one in five students, often leading to tragic outcomes that are avoidable,” said Rep. Lisa Cutter, D-Jefferson County. “We can do more to prevent and stop bullying, and that’s what this bill would do. It asks school districts to adopt a model bullying prevention policy and ensures that policy is effective by including parent voices and addressing cyberbullying.”
“The wellbeing of our students must be a top priority, which is why we are always looking at how we can better keep them safe and healthy both at school and at home,” said Rep. Mary Young, D-Greeley. “The bill we advanced today will do that by strengthening schools’ bullying policies and ensuring that educators have the tools and strategies they need to prevent both in-school and cyberbullying that can happen anywhere.”
HB21-1221, which is sponsored by Representatives Lisa Cutter and Mary Young, would ensure important changes for when the Department of Education’s model bullying policy is updated next year, including making a crucial distinction between conflict and bullying which are often conflated. The bill would ensure parents of students who have been bullied are involved in developing the policy, and extend the policy to cyberbullying that occurs during online instruction. It requires districts to implement the model bullying policy and report bullying incidents. Approximately 15 percent of students in high school in Colorado experience bullying, and nationwide, 20 percent of middle and high schoolers experience bullying. Persistent bullying can lead to feelings of isolation, rejection, exclusion, and despair, and they can also lead to suicidal behavior.
The committee also passed HB21-1273, which is sponsored by Representative Cutter and would require CDE to report on the total number of licensed school psychologists in Colorado who work in schools across the state. Yesterday the committee passed HB21-1259, another bill in the package to address COVID-19 related learning loss, which streamlines the application process and reporting requirements for school districts seeking to access stimulus funding to provide students with extended learning opportunities.