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New law, teen suicide bring governor to Colorado Springs Monday

John Hickenlooper signs bills, does Facebook Live

Governor has busy Monday in Colorado...

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - It was a busy start to the workweek Monday as Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper spent much of the day in Colorado Springs.

He started his schedule with a bill-signing ceremony at Urban Peak, a downtown homeless shelter and advocacy center for homeless teenagers.

The governor signed two bills into law that will clear the misdemeanor criminal records of certain juveniles or make it harder for anyone to access those records in background checks.

Proponents said the law will eliminate the "one-strike-you're-out" situation facing many juveniles who commit thefts and other minor crimes, but often can't get hired for jobs because of those crimes, even with a clean record afterward.

"This doesn't include felony offenses or juveniles with a high number of repeat offenses," said Sen. Bob Gardner, R-Colorado Springs, a co-sponsor of the bill.  "It's for juveniles who seriously want to turn their lives around."

Shawna Kempannien, Urban Peak's executive director, said the law will affect thousands of juveniles who often are pushed to commit crimes because of negative pressure from family, friends and acquaintances, or from a lack of support from those same people.

"About a third of juveniles who come to our shelter have some kind of criminal background," she said.  "They shouldn't have to be punished the rest of their lives for a stupid mistake they made as a teen."

Less than an hour later, Hickenlooper was at Beacon Health, on the city's northeast side, to join a group of local teens in a Facebook Live session about teen suicide.

"We have the ninth-highest suicide rate in the country," he said.  "We're all seeking answers and solutions."

"I know multiple people who have died from suicide," said Macy Rae, a high school sophomore.  "I was actually suicidal myself.  So I have two different outlooks on suicide.  I shared those outlooks with the governor."

Heather Flint, a high school freshman, said her older brother took his own life in February.

"This has affected me in many ways," she said.  "Being here to help support this (event) has been a huge thing for me."

After listening to the teens, Hickenlooper offered them advice.

"Ask your parents for advice and ask your friends for advice," he said.  "It takes you out of the moment and allows you to get some perspective."

The event ended with some of the teens dancing as a way of expressing joy and coping with depression.

The teens even convinced Hickenlooper to display a few dance moves.

"I was never a dancer and was sort of nerdy," he said.  "So to see kids have the courage to step up and dance, I'm happy to see that."


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