This story begins back in 1999 at Columbine High School when two students took (13) lives and injured dozens prior to taking their own lives in a massacre that shocked the nation. School-based violence has continued to plague Colorado schools to a lesser extent ever since. A Denver Post article cites a particular incident that occurred at Arapahoe High School in 2013 where Claire Davis was killed by another student who then committed suicide. Her parents claimed that the school chose to ignore prior signs which showed that the shooter was extremely dangerous. The administration was aware of his propensity for violence and anger; in fact, several months earlier this student had openly issued a death threat to one of his coaches in a hallway.
State officials formally acknowledged the increasing problems with school violence stating “The General Assembly acknowledges that times have changed in this country and state; there have been many acts of school violence resulting in killed and injured persons. Since 1999, there have been three separate incidents of school violence in which students have been killed. Parents have a reasonable expectation that public schools should keep children safe.”
Colorado Senate Bill 213: “The Claire Davis bill”
In 2015, Governor John Hickenlooper officially signed the bipartisan Bill 213 into law, which addressed school violence as follows:
- Established a duty of reasonable care, making schools responsible for safety and “removing the shield” that schools receive under government immunity, which limits the majority of potential liability.
- Waiving government immunity to ensure that thorough and effective discovery in conducted to better determine the causes of acts of school violence.
- Made Colorado one of approximately (15) states allowing lawsuits against schools resulting from these incidents.
- Explains that schools should protect students and staff from harmful acts that are “reasonably foreseeable”.
- Those injured or killed (or their relatives) can file a suit for negligence and receive damages up to $350,000 per victim and a total of $900,000 for a single event involving others.
- Individual employees of the school are not subject to suit unless their actions are willful and wanton.
Critics of the Bill
- Democratic lawmakers sought a higher standard for liability, such as intentional indifference or gross negligence.
- That this bill places an increasing burden on the schools by increasing their liability insurance coverage by over 30%.
- Senator Mike Johnson (D-Denver) states “There is nowhere in state law where the ability to sue the state exists.”
In Colorado we see increasingly more incidents of violence resulting in serious injury or even death. Many of these events could have been prevented, as often those assigned to maintaining safety are simply careless or negligent. If you or a loved one has been a victim, you deserve aggressive and experienced legal representation to pursue proper compensation. Contact the Law Firm of Jeremy Rosenthal for a free consultation and we will respond quickly, keep you informed, and work to secure you the justice you deserve.