Legislature(1995 - 1996)

04/19/1995 09:02 AM HES

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
txt
        HB 125 JUVENILE RECORD INFORMATION TO SCHOOLS                        
                                                                               
                                                                               
 Number 086                                                                    
                                                                               
 CHAIRMAN GREEN introduced  HB 125  as the next order of business              
 before the committee.                                                         
 MELINDA GRUENING, staff to Representative Joe Green, informed the             
 committee that violence is one of the leading problems facing                 
 Alaskan schools.  There is no requirement that a school principal             
 be given criminal records regarding a delinquent that is attending            
 the school.  She noted the hard work on SB 54 last year which was             
 a juvenile waiver bill that addressed discretionary disclosure of             
 agency records to school officials.  There has been little effort             
 to develop a protocol for the sharing of information; there are no            
 regulations as of yet.  She said that there is confusion regarding            
 the disclosure of this information.  As illustrated in two polls              
 taken last month surveying school officials and teachers, little              
 disclosure is actually occurring.  School officials favor                     
 disclosure occurring as soon as possible.                                     
                                                                               
 Ms. Gruening explained that HB 125 would require law enforcement              
 and the Division of Family & Youth Services (DFYS) to disclose                
 these criminal records to school officials.  She pointed out that             
 House HESS had approved a CS that provided mandatory disclosure of            
 the courts and law enforcement of felonious crimes.  The                      
 information provided with disclosure would protect the victims of             
 juvenile crime, students, and teachers.  Furthermore, the school              
 principal could utilize the school's resources in order to provide            
 assistance to a delinquent youth.                                             
                                                                               
 Ms. Gruening discussed two meetings in which various agencies and             
 interested parties came together to discuss the issue of                      
 disclosure.  From the perspective of the school, disclosure which             
 is not happening should be mandatory.  From the perspective of the            
 Department of Law and the Department of Public Safety, the new law            
 should be afforded the opportunity to work on a discretionary                 
 basis.  However, everyone agreed that disclosure should have a set            
 procedure.  These meetings resulted in the passage of the House               
 Judiciary CS which removed the mandatory nature of the disclosure             
 and added language requiring that a mutually agreeable procedure              
 between DFYS, law enforcement agencies, and local school officials            
 be established.  Such an agreement would ensure that criminal                 
 records would be transferred to schools.  She noted that the                  
 transfer of information would be different in each school district.           
 The Anchorage Police Department felt that a dedicated fax line                
 would be the easiest manner in which to communicate this                      
 information.  In smaller schools and communities, the procedure               
 could be done by a phone call that is followed up by written                  
 confirmation.  The option was left up to the local law enforcement            
 and school districts to work out the procedure between them.                  
                                                                               
 Ms. Gruening pointed out that the bill has a 90 day deadline                  
 beginning at the time of the bill's effective date for establishing           
 the procedures; it is critical that this be done quickly.  She said           
 that Representative Green encourages everyone involved with                   
 disclosure to begin now.  Representative Green intends to follow up           
 on this issue in the fall with polling in order to determine if               
 disclosure is happening on a discretionary basis.  If disclosure is           
 not happening at that time, Representative Green plans to introduce           
 legislation that would mandate disclosure next session.  The CS               
 gives the discretionary disclosure an opportunity to work.  Ms.               
 Gruening emphasized that school officials must have the necessary             
 information regarding school violence, if the schools are to be               
 held responsible for the safety of students and faculty.                      
                                                                               
 Number 189                                                                    
                                                                               
 CHAIRMAN GREEN asked if there was anything in this legislation that           
 would require that one school communicate information to another              
 school regarding a violent student.  MELINDA GRUENING said there              
 was not.  The current disclosure under SB 54 has strict                       
 redisclosure confinements.                                                    
                                                                               
 LIEUTENANT TED BACHMAN, Alaska State Troopers assigned to the                 
 Directors Office in Anchorage, stated that the Department of Public           
 Safety (DPS) supported the concept of the release of this type of             
 information to the schools.  There has been a policy drafted                  
 regarding disclosure for the State Troopers which should be in                
 place by May 1st statewide.  The State Troopers would utilize a               
 form that would inform the school of incidents.  The school would             
 then fill out a portion of the form and fax it back to the Troopers           
 in order to verify that the school received the information and to            
 determine if the school has this student.  He explained that the              
 policy also provides for disclosure of information to other schools           
 in which the student is not enrolled; this measure would protect              
 surrounding areas which may be in danger from this student.                   
 Lieutenant Bachman specified that under current statutes the State            
 Troopers can inform other schools that the student does not attend.           
 He informed the committee that there would be a packet put together           
 that would be passed out to all police departments in order to                
 implement this procedure without any material changes needed.  This           
 packet should be distributed in the first week of May.                        
                                                                               
 STEVEN MCPHETRES, Executive Director of the Alaska Council of                 
 School Administrators, informed the committee that he represented             
 over 500 elementary and high school principals and district staff             
 as well.  The Council supported the current version of HB 125,                
 although a stronger version as originally introduced would be                 
 welcomed.                                                                     
                                                                               
 Number 266                                                                    
                                                                               
 HELEN MEHRKENS, representing the Department of Education, supported           
 Sections 2, 3, and 4.  She discussed the escalating concerns for              
 the safety of students from other students.  This bill is                     
 appropriate.  The cooperation between departments and agencies is             
 important regarding the safety of students in school.                         
                                                                               
 CHAIRMAN GREEN asked if Ms. Mehrkens had heard of the need for                
 district to district disclosure and would it be possible to do so.            
 HELEN MEHRKENS said she had heard that concern, but was unable to             
 comment on the possibility of that under this legislation.                    
                                                                               
 JOHN CYR, Vice President of NEA-AK, supported CS HB 125(JUD).  He             
 informed the committee that a telephone poll of its members had               
 rated school violence as the number one concern amongst empolyees             
 in both rural and urban Alaska.  NEA-AK had hoped that the bill               
 would have a mandatory provision.  In response to Chairman Green              
 regarding district to district disclosure, there is a problem.  A             
 district has no idea of the problems a transfer student may have;             
 transfers are more of a problem than problem students in a                    
 district's own school because those students can be tracked.  Mr.             
 Cyr said that confidentiality is important, but confidentiality is            
 superseded by the right to know.                                              
                                                                               
                                                                               
 MARGOT KNUTH, Criminal Division of the Department of Law, said that           
 district to district disclosures are permitted under existing law.            
 There are two forms that the state has developed, one is from DHSS            
 and the other is from the State Troopers.  The form from DFYS                 
 indicates all reports about a juvenile specifies that the form may            
 be placed in the student's record.  School districts may adopt                
 further policies for disclosure of this type of information.  She             
 appreciated the cooperation that Representative Green had extended            
 with solving this problem.  In time, refinement will occur as the             
 system is used.                                                               
                                                                               
 CHAIRMAN GREEN noted that some information in a student's file is             
 purged when their files are transferred.                                      
                                                                               
 LIEUTENANT TED BACHMAN pointed out that AS 47.10.93 specifies that            
 a state, municipal agency or employee may disclose information                
 regarding a case to school officials.  Most school employees are              
 state or municipal employees which may allow school to school                 
 disclosure.  CHAIRMAN GREEN indicated that perhaps, school to                 
 school disclosure is doable now, but it may not be the trend.                 
                                                                               
 SENATOR LEMAN moved that CS HB 125(JUD) be moved out of committee             
 with individual recommendations.  Hearing no objection, it was so             
 ordered.                                                                      

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