Parents in the Dark: State leaders call for change in law after Denver7 investigations

DENVER -- A former Colorado congressman says state law needs to change after Denver7 Investigates revealed a series of school employee arrests that parents were not initially informed about.

Over the course of several months, Denver7 Investigates has uncovered four incidents in three different districts in which parents were not told about the arrests of school employees charged with sex crimes against students until Denver7 reported on the arrests. 

In three of the incidents, schools did not inform parents for months after the arrests. 

“It is absolutely a scandal,” Bob Schaffer said. “Parents are in the dark, and it’s not just an accident – parents are in the dark in Colorado deliberately.”

Schaffer, a former Republican congressman, served as head of the state board of education six years ago, when similar reporting uncovered similar scandals. At that time the board, led by Schaffer, voted to require schools to send notifications to parents when school employees were arrested and charged with serious crimes.

But the Legislature dismantled the rule, deciding the board did not have the authority to make such a requirement of districts.

Current state law leaves it up to individual districts to decide if and when they will notify parents about the arrests of teachers and other school employees. Most districts told Denver7 Investigates they don’t have a policy about parental notification and take arrests on a case-by-case basis. 

Districts have expressed concerns about jeopardizing ongoing law enforcement investigations by notifying parents after arrests. But Schaffer said the current process has to change. 

“This is a function of a number of groups and organizations actively working together to make certain that parents are in the dark … putting the interests and reputations of their institutions over and above the safety of little children. It is unconscionable,” Schaffer said. 

State Rep. Paul Lundeen said he is planning to propose a bill in the next legislative session. 

“We need to close the loopholes that exist by writing laws to solve this problem,” Lundeen said. “Let’s in fact shine the bright light on this, because in fact sunlight is a great disinfectant on a moldy, dusty, murky, evil crime of this nature.”

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