Should a school notify parents when a teacher is arrested -- a teacher such as Courtney Bowles, who was busted for getting naked with a student; Alex Tinsley, who police say asked a student if she wanted to join the Mile High Club; or Travis Masse, who police say had a sexting habit that involved underage girls? The Colorado Education Association, the state's largest teachers union, says no.
The CEA recently filed a civil lawsuit in Denver District Court challenging a regulation passed in April by the State Board of Education that requires schools to tell parents when a staff member is arrested for any number of offenses, including felonies, drug crimes, sex crimes and, if the staff member's job description includes transporting children, DUIs.
Kris Gomez, a staff attorney for CEA, says the rule is unconstitutional and tramples on school districts' rights. "It's interfering with a local district's authority to manage its employees," she says.
Furthermore, Gomez says, "when it's an arrest, there's no finding of guilt and no conviction." Notifying parents of an arrest is premature, she says.
"Our concern is that school district employees will be found guilty in the court of public opinion," Gomez says. "Lots of times, the district attorney will decide there's not enough evidence to go forward, and they'll dismiss the case. Yet the school employee is publicly vilified within their own community."
Even more disturbing, she says, is that the regulation does not include a requirement that schools notify parents if the staff member is eventually acquitted in court -- though she says schools do have to notify parents if the DA drops the charges.
Civil lawsuits tend to move slowly, so it might be a while before a judge weighs in. Meanwhile, schools will likely continue to send out the types of announcements that no parent ever wants to receive.
More from our Education archives: "Brett Reese, Greeley school board member, censured for teacher touching, not MLK hating."
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