Legislature(1995 - 1996)
04/19/1995 09:02 AM HES
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
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.