School Liability Bill Clears Committee

A measure to eliminate immunity for public schools for school shootings, death, sexual assaults and other series injuries that happen to students on school grounds cleared the House Judiciary Committee on Thursday. It passed on a vote of 10-3.

Currently public schools are not liable. Legislative leaders in both parties are sponsoring the change, spurred in part by the death of Claire Davis in 2013. Davis attended Arapahoe High School in Littleton when a fellow student shot and killed her before turning the gun on himself.

“His goal was to shoot up the school,” said Michael Davis, the father of Claire. He testified in favor of the bill before lawmakers on the House Judiciary Committee. “This young man was known by the school to be volatile and potentially dangerous.”

Supporters of Senate Bill 213 said schools need to show reasonable care in protecting student safety. The proposal would cap damages at $900,000 for multiple injuries per incident. An individual could receive a maximum of $350,000.

“The idea is not to have lawsuits, but make sure schools take care of the children in their care,” said Bob Lempke, a family friend of the Davis’.

But opponents of the proposal worry it would lead to a flurry of lawsuits, and the threat of litigation could cause some school administrators to overreact in how they punish students.

“It’s almost impossible not to find something that couldn’t have been or shouldn’t have been done better,” said Representative Yeulin Willet (R-Grand Junction). “But the problem is not our schools. The problem is societal.”

Another part of the bill would also allow people to receive investigative information about an incident. It already cleared the Senate unanimously, but still needs to go through the House.