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Colorado Senate passes bill to speed response to school shootings

Author: Joey Bunch - April 7, 2018 - Updated: April 23, 2018

ColumbineNow-retired Columbine High School principal Frank DeAngelis crosses his fingers while talking with reporters at the school around the 10-year anniversary of the mass shooting at the school near Littleton. (AP Photo/Ed Andrieski)

Colorado, the state who made school shootings a national concern at Columbine High School two decades ago, hopes to lead the way in making them safer, evidenced by Senate Bill 158.

The legislation would provide money for technology, equipment and training to connect schools quickly to to first-responders when seconds mean lives. School radios, for example, would connect directly to cops, letting them know instantly what’s happening where on campus.

The bill creates a $7 million-a-year School Access for Emergency Response (SAFER) grant program for five years through the state Department of Public Safety.

Schools would be able to tap into the same two-way radio system used by about 1,000 local, state and federal agencies used only in emergencies.

The legislation was voted out of the Senate 33-1 Friday and moves to the House, where it must pass — and any amendments worked out — before the legislature adjourns on May 9.

“This bill enables schools across our state to follow the lead of our own district D70 here in Pueblo — the first school district in the state to fully implement interoperable technology that allows schools to communicate directly with first-responders,” said Senate Minority Leader Leroy Garcia, D-Pueblo, who sponsored the bill.

“As a paramedic, I can say from experience that every second counts in an emergency. This legislation is a crucial step in the ongoing effort to make our schools as safe as possible.”

The bill passed the Senate Education Committee unanimously in February.

In a press release, Garcia cited those who spoke in favor of the bill in committee:

  • Greg Keasling, student Services director of Pueblo D70.
  • Ed Smith, superintendent of Pueblo D70.
  • Kathy Morris, director of safety and security from Durango School District 9-R.
  • Prowers County Sheriff Sam Zordell.

Garcia said he received letters endorsing the bill from Maria Mitchell, 911 Communications director for the Park County Sheriff’s Office, and Bob Sterner, technical specialist for the Elbert County Communication Authority.

Joey Bunch

Joey Bunch

Joey Bunch is the senior political correspondent for Colorado Politics. He has a 31-year career in journalism, including the last 15 in Colorado. He was part of the Denver Post team that won the Pulitzer Prize in 2013 and is a two-time Pulitzer finalist. His resume includes covering high school sports, the environment, the casino industry and civil rights in the South, as well as a short stint at CNN.