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Colorado Education Association Sues to Stop Telling Parents of Teacher Arrests

This hasn’t been one of the big issues on my education transformer radar, nor is it one I’ve covered before. But it does bring out an interesting point of clarity for those who are interested in our K-12 schools and the politics that surround them. The Coloradoan in Fort Collins reported yesterday that the state’s largest teachers union has filed a legal challenge against a new public school reporting requirement:

The statewide teachers union has sued the Colorado Board of Education over new rules requiring the public disclosure of teacher arrests.

The board passed the new rules this spring at the prompting of Fort Collins resident and board chairman Bob Schaffer.

The first attempt to establish the rule was shot down by a 4-3 vote in May 2010. The State Board went back to the drawing table to address concerns and complications, but the teachers union remained fundamentally opposed:

Marti Houser, general counsel of the Colorado Education Association, said, “Our concerns relate to the constitutional and statutory rights of our members, not that we don’t care about the children. … If we are moving to a process … of reporting every arrest, that would be very unfortunate [and] a huge burden for the Department of Education.

“There aren’t very many educators being arrested … very, very few are convicted or plead guilty” to crimes, she added.

A “huge burden” for a small number of teachers? Schaffer’s crusade to enact the change was provoked by 2009 coverage of two Poudre School District teachers who had been arrested. Parents were never notified. Both teachers ended up with convictions for different kinds of crimes that involved harming children. Part of the “very, very few” perhaps. But the public’s (and especially the parents’) right to know is a very important factor in this equation.

So this past April the State Board unanimously approved the new rule — which went into effect at the end of May. As Ed News Colorado noted:

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.

Apparently, CEA is concerned that enough districts would do the honorable thing. So now the Colorado State Board of Education has another lawsuit on its hands. That almost certainly means they’ve been doing the right thing.