Mom says "zero tolerance" policy too extreme

By: Matt Vanderveer Email
By: Matt Vanderveer Email

GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (KKCO) - The “Zero Tolerance” policy is in the process of revision at the State Capital and many parents say the policy is a way to keep kids safe in Colorado after the mass shootings in Columbine in 1999.

Others say the policy has been taken to an extreme.

Vicky Smith lives in Grand Junction and says her special needs son has been bullied to an extreme all his life.

She says they have brought the issue to school officials but they have done nothing to help her son.

One day during a game of tag, she says her son was being teased and taunted on the playground. She says her son had enough when he decided to punch another student in the face.

Vicky smith says her child has had to deal with bullying all his life.

"He doesn't feel like the school has addressed bullying issues,” says Smith.

According to Smith, the game of tag was unsupervised. She says school officials were aware he needed extra supervision.

"The reality is there was not even an adult who witnessed this situation,” explains Smith.

Smith says the school brought the boys into the office where her son told officials that he had been teased and felt he had no other choice.

"The school staff said they didn't believe that had happened and that the other child had denied those accusations,” explains Smith.

From there, law enforcement was immediately notified and the process of booking her child for 3rd degree assault began.

"My child didn't even have the opportunity to have a parent there,” says Smith.

She says she was notified almost three hours later and her child was not given the option of a lawyer.

"I didn't even find out about this incident until my child had been put on the bus at the end of the day,” says Smith.

District 51 spokesperson Jeff Kirtland says they only involve law enforcement on incidents that are absolutely necessary.

"We have been working with law enforcement over the course of many years to identify when it’s appropriate to have them intervene,” says Kirtland.

Smith says school officials have taken the “Zero Tolerance” policy too far and believes revision of the law will help keep students who are bullied or who commit petty offenses out of the law's hands.

"I don't think our legislatures meant to have this happen-- to have a 12 year old special-ed student being charged with 3rd degree assault,” says Smith.

Smith explains she doesn't think her child shouldn't have been punished, she just doesn't think the punishment was fair.
District 51 says they only call officials for serious matters; issues like drugs, alcohol and sexual assault, not petty offenses.

They say due to federal law, they are not allowed to comment on any specific students disciplinary actions as those are private record.

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