New policy, training at Brighton 27J School District after bubble gun controversy

Brighton 27J encourages discretion
Posted at 3:44 PM, Sep 08, 2016
and last updated 2016-09-09 01:14:08-04

BRIGHTON, Colo. -- The Brighton 27J School District is updating its weapons policy and training administrators following the controversy over a 5-year-old girl suspended for bringing a bubble-making gun to school last May.

Initially, the District defended the suspension, citing a zero-tolerance weapons policy.

But the case sparked national attention and outrage, and now, the district is making changes this school year.

"We appreciate Channel 7 bringing the parent's concerns to our attention so that we could address those," said Kevin Denke, a spokesman for Brighton 27J. "And we think it will be better moving forward."

The updated policy more clearly defines dangerous weapons, but more importantly, Denke said, administrators went through a new training before school started on discretion in weapons-related discipline.

"They went through some scenarios of what qualifies as a dangerous weapon and what does not, and then also talked about those discretionary factors they had to consider, said Denke.

He also said the 5-year-old would no longer be suspended for bringing a bubble maker to school, even though the policy has only minor changes in language.

"Last year, the term that was used was 'zero-tolerance' policy, and I think that was a perception perhaps among some of our administrators that there was zero tolerance, but they did have discretion," said Denke, acknowledging that even under the previous policy, a bubble maker did not meet the definition given of a facsimile weapon. 

"The steps they have taken are really, really good steps," said Daniel Kim, an education activist with Padres & Jovenes Unidos. "Unfortunately, when we look at the policy, we would be concerned that it’s not really going to fix the underlying problem and that you could still see situations like this happen."

Kim said the updated policy leaves too much discretion about discipline to principals, while other districts such as Denver Public Schools have more clearly defined proportionate discipline, as required by a 2012 state law.

"What Denver Public Schools have is a graduated discipline ladder," said Kim. "When we look at this updated policy for Brighton and we see that it's pretty much a boiler plate zero-tolerance policy, it raises the question of whether this policy is in compliance with state law or not."

Kim said his organization is forming a task force to examine a ban on suspensions and expulsions from kindergarten to second grade.

Meanwhile, the mother of the 5-year-old girl suspended asked us not to reveal her identity to protect her daughter's privacy.

She said the District's policy may not have changed much, but attitudes have.

Her daughter's record no longer says she was disciplined for "bringing a facsimile weapon to school." 

"I don't want there to be any hard feelings," she said. "But at the same time, they need to know that they can't be ridiculous and get away with it and think that nobody is going to stand up for themselves or their children "


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