Gov. Ned Lamont, joined by Rep. Antonio Felipe (right), voiced his support of House Bill 6663, which would guarantee English language learners' parents a "Bill of Rights." Jessika Harkay / CT Mirror

Nearly a dozen bills passed out of the Education Committee Friday afternoon, including two bills that garnered hours of public testimony from communities of color.

House Bill 6663, which would guarantee a “bill of rights” to the parents of English language learners, unanimously passed through the committee and will be heading to the Appropriations Committee next.

“The substitute language that we have included modifies language that there’s a right to translation services,” said Education Committee Co-chair Jeff Currey, D-East Hartford. “Not necessarily in person but they can use online or telephone platforms, or an internet website, or any other means.”

Several bills, including HB 6663, passed without much debate.

However, Senate Bill 1095, which would provide more transparency toward the role of School Resource Officers including specifying their duties, especially when it comes to restraints and school-based arrests, and providing counselors and social workers with appropriate training and support to help SROs — received many comments from lawmakers prior to its vote.

Most Republican lawmakers on the committee voted against SB 1095.

“School resource officers that we use in Newtown are more than just police officers in the building. … They serve a very noble and important role in our schools and are quite important to our families,” said Mitch Bolinsky, R-Newtown, who ended up voting against the bill. “Frankly, I was alarmed by the testimony at the public hearing and the fact that many constitutes came before us with the assumption that they were going to have the opportunity to eliminate school resource officers altogether … I’m uncertain as to where they got that idea.”

Other lawmakers argued the bill is the first step toward discussing whether SROs are needed, or the best help, in some districts.

“[This bill is] to say ‘Your district functions this way? Fine, but my district functions differently.’ Let us function differently. Which is to say, if you have an SRO and you like it and your district likes it, keep it,” said Gary Winfield, D-New Haven. “There’s more that needs to be in this bill before it passes. … This is about all of us having the ability to go to school where we already have enough to deal with, and the parents saying ‘I don’t have to worry about my kid.’”

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Jessika Harkay is CT Mirror’s Education Reporter, covering the K-12 achievement gap, education funding, curriculum, mental health, school safety, inequity and other education topics. Jessika's experience includes roles as a breaking news reporter at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and the Hartford Courant. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Journalism from Baylor University.