DENVER — A bi-partisan group of state lawmakers are meeting this summer to consider what more can be done to stop school shootings. The School Safety Interim Committee was formed in the days immediately after the shooting at the STEM School in Highlands Ranch in early May.
The 8 member panel was intentionally set up with an even number of Democrats and Republicans so that the focus of the meetings will be on policy solutions both parties can support.
"To me, the goal is not one more child dies by violence in school. And the question is, how do we get there," said committee chair Rep. Dafna Michaelson Jenet, (D) Adams County.
Thursday's meeting was the first of four monthly hearing scheduled to review and update the state's school safety laws.
"This particular issue, keeping our students safe, is highly emotional at times. So, staying on the middle of that effort is going to be challenging perhaps at times, but that is the goal," said State Senator Paul Lundeen, (R) El Paso County.
Legislative staff members gave testimony on existing laws and school safety requirements. Mental health professionals, social workers, school resource officers and other experts also weighed in on where there may be some weaknesses in the state's policies.
"We've heard a lot today about mental health and mental health support and that we haven't ramped those up to the way that they need to be ramped up," Michealson Jenet said. "Where are we going to find those resources, how are we going to make certain that the mental health of our community is being addressed because we know that it's part of the problem."
Lundeen pointed out that most teenagers feel pressure today that didn't exist in past generations due to the ability of social media sites to amplify attention and distraction.
"I'm an old guy, peer pressure to me was one thing, it's what a guy said about you at lunchtime at the cafeteria," Lundeen said. "Now, it's what's going on and it repeats and repeats and repeats at an incredibly quick speed through social media."
The committee will meet again on August 20, September 20 and October 31 at the state Capitol.