Colo. teachers union challenging arrest disclosures
FORT COLLINS — Colorado’s largest teachers union is challenging new rules requiring schools to notify parents about teacher arrests.
The Colorado Education Association has filed a lawsuit, claiming that they are “arbitrary”, “vague” and are an “abuse of or a clearly unwarranted exercise of discretion,” the Fort Collins Coloradoan reported today.
The union wants a judge to throw out the rules because they may harm a teacher’s reputation, noting that arrests represent an accusation of wrongdoing, not a finding of guilt. The union also said it’s possible that a teacher could be mistaken for someone else arrested with the same name.
The rules apply to school employees for public schools, including charter schools, who have contact with students. They were adopted by the bipartisan state education board this spring after an investigation by the newspaper revealed that the state education department wasn’t always following a 2008 state law requiring that it pass along arrest information to school districts.
Under the new rules, school districts must notify students’ parents when employees are arrested or charged with any felony or misdemeanor charges of sexual assault, child abuse or indecent exposure. Drug arrests are supposed to be disclosed, but not arrests for marijuana possession.
Board chairman Bob Schaffer of Fort Collins pushed for the changes, saying that parents were in the best position to make decisions about their children’s safety.
CEA spokeswoman Jeanne Beeyer said the decision about whether to make an arrest public should be left to school districts.
“We believe that if a school district wants to do this, the school district has the authority to make a school board policy,” she said.
Schaffer said information about who is arrested is already public information released by law enforcement and reported by the media.
“It’s just a function of connecting public information with parents and schools,” Schaffer said the new rules.