Rochester School Board Backs Notification Law

Posted at: 04/24/2013 10:43 PM
Updated at: 04/24/2013 10:50 PM
By: John Doetkott

(ABC 6 News) -- On Tuesday night the Rochester Public School Board voted unanimously to support two proposed bills that would require Minnesota’s school districts to notify parents as soon as practicable if their child has been the victim of maltreatment.

The proposed bills stem directly from an incident at Century High School in February in which a paraprofessional physically mistreated a student with autism. The incident was captured on the school’s video surveillance system and the paraprofessional was later transferred to another position within the district that does not involve contact with children.

Such maltreatment incidents are currently handled by the state Department of Education, which is why in the incident at Century High School, the boy's parents weren't notified until almost a week later.

“I can get a text message or an e-mail if my son is tardy for class or doesn't show up to class, I can get that within 10 to 15 minutes,” said Brad Trahan, founder of the RT Autism Awareness Foundation. “But we're going to wait six days to tell a family that there's an alleged mistreatment of your child? That doesn't make sense."

The school board said their silence was due to legal restrictions, not apathy.

“To some that comes across as we're hiding something or we're wrong,” Superintendent Michael Munoz said. “Sometimes we're just not allowed to share our story and our side of the issue."

The proposed bills were both authored by Rochester lawmakers in direct response to the Century High incident, and proponents said the new laws will allow for more wiggle room in data privacy laws and make sure parents are never left in the dark.

“We can always notify parents of a situation where there's alleged maltreatment going on and still protect the integrity of data privacy,” Trahan said. “I get data privacy, I respect it. But the bottom line is we can never, we can never jeopardize the safety and security of our kids."

The House bill cleared one committee but is not included on any bills scheduled for the end of the session. The Senate bill has yet to have a hearing.