A Denver Post Op-ed piece this weekend called out our leadership and authorship of a bill to provide greater protection to students in Colorado public schools. Read the whole column by Luke Ragland, which clearly lays out the issues, below or online here.
A bipartisan effort to restore trust in our schools
By LUKE RAGLAND | Guest Commentary
March 16, 2018 at 12:03 pm
Imagine your child’s teacher was arrested for sexually assaulting a 14-year-old student — and the school didn’t tell you.
Well, you don’t have to imagine it, because current state law doesn’t require the school to tell you, and many school districts don’t even have a policy that requires parents to be notified when serious charges are brought against a teacher or school employee.
There used to be a state rule on the books requiring parental notification when a school employee was arrested for sex crimes and other serious offenses, but the state’s largest teachers’ union, the Colorado Education Association (CEA), successfully lobbied state legislators to have the law repealed in 2011.
It’s time we change that to protect our children.
Perhaps the biggest leap of faith parents take is entrusting their child’s safety to others. Whether it’s a babysitter or a school, parents need to trust whomever is charged with caring for their kids.
Sadly, this sacred commitment between schools and families has been shattered for many families who have seen teachers and other school staff members abuse their positions of power over our children. Stories about teacher arrests have made headlines in districts all across the state over the last year. School administrators certainly do their best to prevent these occurrences, but sadly, they cannot be prevented in all cases.
In some cases, school leaders were found to have covered up sexual crimes, or even pressured students to recant their allegations.
This is unacceptable.
However, there is something that schools can do to restore trust with families: Notify parents immediately when a teacher or school employee is charged with crimes that might endanger kids.
Thanks to the lobbying efforts of the teachers’ union in 2011 and 2012, school districts are not currently required to notify parents of teacher arrests, and many large school districts don’t have a local policy that requires parental notification when a teacher is charged with crimes involving children. This isn’t a hypothetical problem — recent examples in Aurora, Douglas County, and Cherry Creek school districts show that administrators have withheld information from parents.
In their effort to repeal the previous parental notification policy, the CEA sued the state and heavily lobbied Democratic legislators in a shameful attempt to strip a parent’s right to know. The union’s public relations director at the time claimed that parental notification would “degrade and punish education professionals while having no discernible benefit to parents, students, or other school district employees.” In the end, the CEA convinced the legislature to repeal the parental notification rule, which has led to the recent instances of parents being left in the dark.
The current lack of transparency undermines the trust between parents and schools, which is a foundational element of our public education system. Thankfully a bipartisan group of lawmakers are working to solve this problem.
Rep. Paul Lundeen (R-Monument) is leading a bipartisan effort to fix this problem and restore the trust between schools and families. Rep. Lundeen’s legislation would require school districts and charter schools to notify parents when they become aware of charges brought against any employee.
The proposed bill also creates reasonable safeguards for teachers and school employees. For example, only relevant crimes would be reported to parents, so teachers wouldn’t be singled out for overdue parking tickets. It also ensures that parents are notified immediately if the charges are ultimately dismissed. In sum, this bill would create a fair, commonsense process that respects a parent’s right to know and school employees’ individual rights.
Most teachers will never be impacted by this bill, because they work hard every day trying to improve the lives of our students. It is appalling that we are still here having this conversation because the teacher’s union wants to keep parents in the dark.
Schools play a critical role in our communities. They work best when parents, educators, and administrators partner to provide opportunity for our children. I applaud Representative Lundeen for leading on this issue and hope it will help foster more trust between families and schools.
Luke Ragland is the president of Ready Colorado, a conservative education policy organization.