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SB23-296

Prevent Harassment And Discrimination In Schools

Concerning protections for students against discriminatory practices at school.
Session:
2023 Regular Session
Subject:
Education & School Finance (Pre & K-12)
Bill Summary

The act defines "harassment or discrimination" as unwelcome physical or verbal conduct or any written, pictorial, or visual communication by a student or employee that is directed at a student or group of students because of that student's or group's membership in, or perceived membership in, a protected class. The conduct or communication need not be severe or pervasive under specified circumstances. Whether conduct constitutes harassment or discrimination is judged under the totality of the circumstances.

The act requires a public school that enrolls students in any of grades kindergarten through 12 (public school) to accept formal reports of harassment or discrimination in writing or in person; by phone, e-mail, or online form. A report received by a public school that alleges harassment or discrimination is confidential. The act requires a public school to:

  • Post notices describing how a student can report harassment or discrimination to the school;
  • Grant an excused absence to a student for certain out-of-school appointments related to the student experiencing harassment or discrimination; and
  • Provide accommodations and supportive measures to a student experiencing harassment or discrimination.

Each school district, charter school, or board of cooperative services (local education provider) shall adopt procedures for investigating reports of harassment or discrimination. A local education provider shall retain the records of a harassment or discrimination report for 7 years.

Each local education provider shall adopt a written policy (policy) that protects students experiencing harassment or discrimination. The policy must include the following:

  • Information on reporting options for students, including contact information for the person designated to receive reports;
  • An explanation of the school's role in responding to reports of harassment or discrimination;
  • Information about resources for victims of violence;
  • A prohibition on a school using a student report of harassment or discrimination or information learned during an investigation as the basis for, or a consideration in, investigating or exacting any disciplinary response for specified school violations by the student related to the harassment or discrimination; and
  • Information about available accommodations and supportive measures.

A public school shall make the policy available annually to students, students' parents and legal guardians, and employees.

The act requires a public school to provide training to school staff about harassment and discrimination, including training about the school's policy. Each new employee of a public school must complete training upon hiring, and every 3 years thereafter.

Public schools of a school district must report information about harassment or discrimination to school districts, who report that information to the department of education (department). An institute charter school reports the information to the state charter school institute, who reports the information to the department. The department reports the information to the sexual misconduct advisory committee in the department of higher education.

A complaint of harassment or discrimination that is unsubstantiated, and all records related to the unsubstantiated complaint, is not a public record subject to disclosure pursuant to the "Colorado Open Records Act" and must not serve as a basis for discipline, dismissal, termination, or any employment reference or licensing action unless the conduct establishes of pattern of the same or similar behavior.

The act exempts from the existing school attendance requirement excused absences for a therapy, medical, legal, or victim services appointment, or for behavioral or mental health concerns, related to harassment or discrimination.

APPROVED by Governor June 6, 2023

EFFECTIVE August 7, 2023

NOTE: This act was passed without a safety clause and takes effect 90 days after sine die.
(Note: This summary applies to this bill as enacted.)

Status

Introduced
Passed
Became Law

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Bill Text

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