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Dezzutti: Dems State Board Overrule Fumble

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(credit: ThinkStock)

(credit: ThinkStock)

Written by Dominic Dezzutti

After masterfully handling redistricting, reapportionment and other local political issues in late 2011, state Democrats may have finally made a misstep on an issue that may very well come back to haunt them.

Earlier this week, on a Democratic party line vote, the Legislative Legal Services Committee overruled a policy installed by the State Board of Education earlier this year.

The policy mandated that all Colorado schools report to parents within 24 hours the arrest of any school district employee charged with a felony or a sexual misdemeanor.

State officials that helped overturn the policy said that the State Board of Education did not have the authority to make such a rule.

However, State Board of Education President Bob Schaffer said the decision by the legislators was “clearly a political stand.”

I understand the point that some Democratic legislators made that informing parents within 24 hours sometimes allowed the innocent to suffer consequences before they could be exonerated. Being considered innocent before proven guilty is a very important point on this issue.

But sadly for Democrats, this is not the year for parents to be considering innocence before being proven guilty with the recent discovery of so many sexual deviants within schools and sports teams.

It will not take long for Republicans to turn this party line vote into negative ads that might actually pack quite a punch this year. It’s accurate to say that Democrats, at least the ones involved on the Legal Services Committee, valued the privacy of school employees more than parents knowing about their kids being at a school with a person charged with a felony.

The problem with supporting the privacy rights of innocent people charged with felonies is that the move also protects the privacy of people who are actually guilty of felonies. And frankly, when it comes to the safety of kids, especially in the days of Jerry Sandusky, parents will likely support violating privacy rights in order to keep their kids safe.

State Board of Education President Schaffer said that the Board will likely pursue a legislative solution to the overruled policy in the upcoming session. If they are successful in that move, and find a way to get support from Democrats, the issue will go away for the 2012 election.

However, if Legislative Democrats block the move and are forced to publicly announce that a parent’s right to know is less important than the privacy of school employees, they will hand the GOP a weapon of mass destruction for the election.

In a normal year, this issue may actually have had a shot of being debated on the merits of privacy rights. But this year has brought us the likes of Jerry Sandusky, Bernie Fine in Syracuse and rogue hockey coaches here in Colorado.

With people like that making headlines, privacy is about the last thing on the minds of parents.

State Dems would be smart to make a deal on this issue in the session and essentially put out the fuse on the bomb that this decision has sparked. If not, even friendly drawn maps won’t be able to help them deal with the fallout in the 2012 election.

About The Blogger

- Dominic Dezzutti, producer of the Colorado Decides debate series, a co-production of CBS4 and Colorado Public Television, looks at the local and national political scene in his CBSDenver.com blog. Read new entries here every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Dezzutti writes about federal, state and local matters and how our elected leaders are handling the issues important to Colorado. Dezzutti also produces the Emmy winning Colorado Inside Out, hosted by Raj Chohan, on Colorado Public Television.

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