The union representing Colorado’s K-12 teachers and education support professionals said it believes parents should be notified when a school employee is arrested and charged with a sexual crime involving a minor victim, after a series of Denver7 investigations showed sometimes parents are never told.
“I want to send a message that the state legislature needs to work together with districts and law enforcement to ensure that parental notification is made in cases of sexual offense,” said Colorado Education Association president Kerrie Dallman.
Denver7 Investigates has spent months uncovering cases in which schools did not tell parents about the arrests of teachers and school employees charged with committing sexual crimes against students in those schools.
“I think one of the benefits of parental notification is that it allows for other victims to come forward during the investigative process and that's important,” Dallman said. “Obviously a parent can't engage in that conversation [with their child] if they're unaware of the allegations and the investigation in the first place.”
Denver7’s reports have prompted a state lawmaker, Rep. Paul Lundeen, to begin crafting legislation that would require schools to notify parents of arrests.
“I expect it's going to be supported,” Lundeen said. “It's tough to say you don't want to protect children in our custody.”
The CEA will be watching Lundeen’s bill closely and hopes to help shape the legislation.
“My best hope is that we exit this legislative session with a bill that protects students and respects educators' due process rights… while ensuring that parents have the information that they need to keep their children safe,” Dallman said.
The teachers union opposed a similar requirement briefly imposed by the Colorado Board of Education in 2011, which was later overturned when the legislature determined the board did not have the authority to set such rules for districts statewide.
“The State Board of Education had overstepped their statutory authority under Colorado law,” Dallman said.
That rule required parental notification for a list of serious charges beyond sexual assault, including DUI. The union emphasized its support for required notification is limited to sexual crimes involving minor victims.
Lundeen, who is running for state Senate, sat on the board of education when the 2011 rule was imposed and said the problem has been on his mind ever since. He believes the hidden arrests brought to light by Denver7 Investigates show why the law needs to change.
“The cavalry is coming. The reality is we are going to do something about this,” Lundeen said.