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Teachers union sues state board over arrest disclosure rule prompted by Fort Collins cases


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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.

In a lawsuit filed in Denver District Court, the Colorado Education Association calls the new rules "arbitrary and/or capricious", "vague" and an "abuse of or a clearly unwarranted exercise of discretion."

The union asks that a judge strike down the new rules because they may unfairly impugn a teacher's reputation, noting that an arrest is merely an accusation and not a finding of guilt. It also says there's a possibilty about information about the wrong person might be dissemninated if two people share the same name.

The rules require that parents of school children be notified by district leaders whenever a school employee is arrested or charged with any felony, or misdemeanor charges of sexual assault, child abuse or indecent exposure.

The notification rules also require parental notification whenever a school employee who transports children is arrested or charged for driving under the influence. The rules only apply to school district employees whose job "brings them into contact with students."

The rules also require the disclosure of drug arrests or charges, but specifically exclude "an arrest or charge for simple marijuana possession." They don't apply to private schools, day-care centers or kindergartens but do apply to charter schools.

In the suit, the union says Schaffer pushed for the rules "based on isolated incidences where his local school district failed to notify parents of criminal allegations against two school teachers."

Schaffer began pushing the disclosure rules after a Coloradoan investigation last summer revealed Colorado Department of Education workers were largely ignoring a state law requiring arrest information to be disclosed to school district officials.

Schaffer said he wanted to ensure the notifications were being passed from state workers to district officials and ultimately to parents, who he said are best positioned to make choices about the safety of their children. The new notifications, which went into effect May 30, are in addition to the existing state law.

Citing a state law making virtually all of the information it holds a secret, CDE officials previously said they can only give arrest information to school district officials, who aren't allowed to share it. Schaffer's rule was a way around that.

The Coloradoan began investigating after the arrests in 2009 of two licensed educators within Poudre School District: Rocky Mountain High School counselor Brad Boda and Poudre High School physical education teacher Amber Huber.

Boda was convicted of sexual assault on multiple children. Huber pleaded guilty to felony contributing to the delinquency of a minor after providing alcohol to two students.

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