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SBE finally agrees on parent notice rule

The State Board of Education has voted unanimously to pass a regulation that requires schools to notify parents whenever a staff member is arrested.

Colorado Department of Education

Colorado Department of Education

The board has wrestled with the issue off and on for a year, and an earlier version of the proposal failed to pass last year. The idea has been pushed by board Chair Bob Schaffer, R-4th District, who was prompted by past notification missteps in Fort Collins schools.

Education interest groups have opposed the idea, arguing that the board doesn’t have legal authority to issue such a regulation and that notifications could ruin the reputations of teachers and others who are falsely accused of crimes. But no group witnesses or representatives were in the boardroom when members finally voted on the rule late Wednesday afternoon.

The new rule, named 1 CCR 301-87 in administrative jargon, contains no enforcement or reporting requirements so districts essentially will be on the honor system in using it. The rule is expected to go into effect May 31.

Member Elaine Gantz Berman, D-1st District, suggested an amendment to require that “parental notification would happen when a school employee is charged,” not arrested.

Schaffer said, “It’s my nature to try to find compromise” but that Berman’s suggested change was “too significant to agree to.”

The board finally agreed to an amendment that schools don’t have to specify the charge when first reporting an employee arrest. And members voted 7-2 for another Berman amendment that dropped misdemeanor marijuana arrests from the list of crimes that would trigger notifications.

The new rule applies to arrests or charging of employees and former employees whose jobs require them to be in contact with students. In most cases, notice must be given within 24 hours of a school learning of an arrest.

Notification is required in cases involving any felony, drug crimes (except for the misdemeanor marijuana exception), misdemeanor and municipal violations involving children, misdemeanor and municipal ordinance violations involving unlawful sexual behavior of various kinds, and any crime of violence. Drunken driving arrests are included if an employee’s duties involve transporting students in motor vehicles.

Bruce Caughey, executive director of the Colorado Association of School Executives, said Thursday, “I have not read the amendment, but unless something has substantially changed in the provisions that they approved yesterday, we don’t think that the State Board has the authority to require this action. That said, we agree with the student safety aspect of this conversation.”

Ken DeLay, executive director of the Colorado Association of School Boards, didn’t have a direct comment on the board’s vote but referred EdNews to a written comment filed with SBE earlier this year, which said, “CASB does not believe the board has the authority under the law to adopt the proposed rule.”

Don’t forget about CAP4K

Budget cuts and the work of the State Council for Educator Effectiveness has drawn most of the attention in recent months, but the board was reminded Thursday that there’s still lots of work to be done on the 2008 Colorado Achievement Plan for Kids law.

Assistant Commissioner Jo O’Brien briefed the board on CAP4K deadlines that fall due this year, including Dec. 15 for adoption of a comprehensive set of high school graduation “guidelines.” Given Colorado’s constitutional protection of local school control, the state can’t set graduation requirements.

The board also is working this year with the Colorado Commission on Higher Education to develop criteria for different kinds of high school diplomas that would indicate various levels of a student’s readiness for college or the workforce. The goal of CAP4K is that earning a high school diploma will mean a student is postsecondary and workforce ready. But the law also calls for special diplomas that would indicate higher levels of readiness.

The two bodies tentatively have joint meetings scheduled on Sept. 15 and Oct. 6.

Charter appeal sent back to Falcon board

The board voted 7-0 to grant an appeal by Imagine Pioneer Academy charter school against the Falcon school district, returning the case to the school board for further consideration of the school’s application.