Legislature(1995 - 1996)
04/15/1996 09:10 AM HES
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
SENATE HEALTH, EDUCATION AND SOCIAL SERVICES COMMITTEE April 15, 1996 9:10 a.m. MEMBERS PRESENT Senator Lyda Green, Chairman Senator Loren Leman, Vice-Chairman Senator Mike Miller Senator Johnny Ellis Senator Judy Salo MEMBERS ABSENT All members present. COMMITTEE CALENDAR HOUSE BILL NO. 30 "An Act relating to a dress code for public schools." HOUSE BILL NO. 93 am "An Act relating to the duty-free mealtime for teachers in certain school facilities." CS FOR HOUSE BILL NO. 339(JUD) am "An Act relating to children-in-need-of-aid proceedings; relating to the termination of parental rights of incarcerated parents; and providing for an effective date." CS FOR HOUSE BILL NO. 480(HES) "An Act relating to physician assistants." was not referred to the Senate Health, Education & Social Services Committee at this time. PREVIOUS SENATE COMMITTEE ACTION HB 30 - No Senate action to record. HB 93 - No Senate action to record. HB 339 - No Senate action to record. WITNESS REGISTER Jonathan Sperber, Staff Representative Bettye Davis State Capitol Juneau, Alaska 99801-1182 POSITION STATEMENT: Read the sponsor statement. Paul Berg 8505 Mendenhall Loop Road Juneau, Alaska 99801 POSITION STATEMENT: Supported HB 30. Nancy Buell, Director Division of Teaching and Learning Support Department of Education 801 W 10th Street, Suite 200 Juneau, Alaska 99801-1894 POSITION STATEMENT: Expressed neutrality on HB 30. Carl Rose, Executive Director Alaska Association of School Boards 316 W 11th Street Juneau, Alaska 99801-1510 POSITION STATEMENT: Supported HB 30. Myrna McGhie, Staff Representative James State Capitol Juneau, Alaska 99801-1182 POSITION STATEMENT: Explained HB 93. Representative Rokeberg State Capitol Juneau, Alaska 99801-1182 POSITION STATEMENT: Prime sponsor of HB 339. Peggy Thomas, Foster Parent 9208 Long Run Drive Juneau, Alaska 99801 POSITION STATEMENT: Urged support of HB 339. Diane Worley, Director Division of Family & Youth Services Department of Health & Social Services PO Box 110660 Juneau, Alaska 99811-0630 POSITION STATEMENT: Supported HB 339. Jan Rutherdale, Assistant Attorney General Civil Division Department of Law PO Box 110300 Juneau, Alaska 99811-0300 POSITION STATEMENT: Supported HB 339. ACTION NARRATIVE TAPE 96-33, SIDE A HB 30 SCHOOL DRESS CODES Number 001 CHAIRMAN GREEN called the Senate Health, Education and Social Services (HESS) Committee to order at 9:10 a.m. and introduced HB 30 as the first order of business before the committee. JONATHAN SPERBER, Staff to Representative Bettye Davis, read the following sponsor statement: HB 30 would provide an important discretionary tool for school districts to use in improving the health and safety of students and teachers. The bill is supported by the Association of Alaska School Boards, the Anchorage School District and the Kodiak Island Borough School District. HB 30 is a response to gang-related behavior. Gangs in Alaska, as in the lower 48, use clothing to communicate. In the Kodiak schools, for example, there have been violent fights involving weapons as a result of who is wearing what colors. Uniforms go a long way toward providing a neutral coat of arms for children whose clothing might otherwise make them targets. The president of the Association of Alaska School Boards has said that: To address some of the manifestations of these problems, schools must be given the tools to establish policies which promote optimum educational environments and protect the health and safety of kids and teachers. In our opinion, HB 30 does this. Adopting a school uniform policy would be voluntary under HB 30. Additionally, parents would have the ability to exclude their children from wearing uniforms. It has been the experience of school districts in other states, however, that few students have chosen to opt out of these very successful programs. In Charleston County, S.C., for example, where nearly half the public schools have adopted voluntary uniform policies, educators praise their leveling, egalitarian effect. The students take pride in their studies, viewing school as a place of work rather than just somewhere to hang out with friends. In Long Beach, Cal. school district, which includes 56 elementary and 14 middle schools, adopting a school uniform policy reduced physical fights by 51%, assault and battery cases by 34%, and suspensions by 32%. In a recent nationwide survey of 5,500 secondary school principals, 70% said they believe uniforms would reduce violence. HB 30 also requires that a school district, in order to require students to wear uniforms, must first determine that financial resources are available to assist economically disadvantaged students. It has been the experience of many parents that providing three uniforms per year for a child is far less expensive than purchasing fashionable clothing. Number 061 PAUL BERG, a 5th grade teacher at Glacier Valley School, informed the committee that he had been a teacher in Alaska for 19 years. He said that America's youth are in trouble. The U.S. is topping the charts in youth violence, suicide, teenage pregnancy, drug use, and anti-social behavior. This is an American cultural phenomena which is supported in his investigations. Mr. Berg informed the committee that he does investigative searches for many publications. Mr. Berg identified the following assumptions in American education and the rearing of adolescents that appear to be flawed: *Adolescents should be left alone, so much is happening to them that adult influence is not necessary. *Place little pressure from the adult world on adolescents because it may damage the children. *Do not hold adolescents accountable academically or through criminal codes. Mr. Berg indicated that the children realize these assumptions. This is facilitating youth dysfunction. In cultures without the problems or adolescent dysfunction experienced in America, two basic patterns. The first pattern of these other cultures is to integrate the adolescent into the adult world very quickly. For example, in the area of Lausanne the adolescent is part of the family and village economy by the time the adolescent is 14 years old. The adolescent is embraced by the adult society. Therefore, the trauma of becoming an adult is not experienced to the level as in the U.S. In more advanced industrial societies that do not experience trauma in becoming an adult, another pattern is illustrated. The adult world places much pressure, academic and social, on the adolescent which is the opposite philosophy of that in the U.S. Frequently, these adolescents are required to wear uniforms. Uniforms are the extension of the adult world. Mr. Berg supported HB 30. Uniforms are needed as a tool. Number 147 NANCY BUELL, Department of Education, said that the department has no strong point of view. The State Principals Association is also neutral on this bill and does not foresee any difficulty in enforcing this. CARL ROSE, Alaska Association of School Boards, supported HB 30. He discussed his visit with a Close-Up group recently in which HB 30 was discussed. If there is an opportunity to create a positive environment in schools with dress codes and input from the community, that would positively reflect on the children as well. CHAIRMAN GREEN brought up the issue of backpacks in the Anchorage school district. She inquired as to the will of the committee. SENATOR SALO moved that HB 30 be reported out of committee with individual recommendations. Hearing no objection, it was so ordered. HB 93 DUTY-FREE MEALTIME FOR TEACHERS Number 213 CHAIRMAN GREEN introduced HB 93 as the next order of business before the committee. BARBARA COTTING, Staff to Representative James, said that HB 93 would remove from statute the strict hours of 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. for duty free mealtime for teachers. Many districts are in violation of this statute. Several school districts have requested this. SENATOR LEMAN asked why the language " and the union representing teachers " was in the bill; are all teachers in Alaska represented by unions? BARBARA COTTING said that this language was requested throughout the process and the language was added on the floor. Ms. Cotting believed that all teachers in Alaska are represented by a union. SENATOR LEMAN suggested that the language should read as follows, "between the governing body and the teachers". SENATOR SALO pointed out that much of statute refers to "the recognized bargaining agent". There are 54 school districts in Alaska. She believed that only one of those districts did not have a union, although that would not preclude that district from having a bargaining agent. Senator Salo felt it correct to specify either the "union" or "the recognized bargaining agent." SENATOR LEMAN inquired as to how the bill read before the language was added. BARBARA COTTING explained that there was a period after "30 minutes" and the language "between 11:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m." was deleted. The entire underlined section was added on the House floor. CHAIRMAN GREEN believed that this issue was present last session. BARBARA COTTING said that it was part of another bill in the Senate. Number 270 SENATOR MILLER said that he was leery of placing this because it will be another item to be negotiated between the districts and the unions. Senator Miller moved that the underlined language " between such hours as the governing body and the union representing teachers in a school district may specify " be deleted. SENATOR SALO objected. She said that in most of Alaska a 30 minute duty free mealtime did not happen before this statute. The hours were specified and did create some problems in a few districts. The problem is with principals who have difficulty with scheduling. Teachers can be given a lunch half hour between 11:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m., but if districts were not held to that the possibility to schedule lunch at inappropriate times would be allowed. A teacher who has not had the chance to have some lunch is not good for the teacher or the students. The duty free lunch is seldom duty free. Senator Salo preferred adding the language "between 11:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m., except where negotiated to be different." Upon a roll call vote regarding the adoption of the amendment, Senators Green, Leman and Miller voted "Yea" and Senator Salo voted "Nay". Senator Ellis was not present at this time. The amendment was adopted. SENATOR LEMAN moved to report SCS HB 93(HES) out of committee with individual recommendations and the accompanying fiscal notes. SENATOR SALO objected. Upon a roll call vote, Senators Green, Leman and Miller voted "Yea" and Senator Salo voted "Nay". Senator Ellis was not present at this time. SCS HB 93(HES) was reported out of committee. HB 339 TERMINATION OF PARENTAL RTS OF PRISONERS Number 331 CHAIRMAN GREEN introduced HB 339 as the next order of business before the committee. REPRESENTATIVE ROKEBERG, Prime Sponsor, informed the committee that HB 339 had five hearings in the House and was substantially amended on the House floor. HB 339 allows the courts to consider that a parent is incarcerated when determining whether or not to terminate parental rights. When the courts determine whether to terminate parental rights, the court must consider that the child is in need of aid as a result of parental conduct as well as considering if the conduct is likely to continue. The case law in Alaska indicates that incarceration does not constitute willful abandonment which is the key to this issue. Representative Rokeberg discussed the Nada A. v State case in which Alaska Supreme Court Justice Compton wrote a dissenting opinion requesting that the legislature pursue this issue. This was reiterated in the case A.M. v State of Alaska last year. In both cases, the court did not have the authority to consider parental incarceration as a form of willful abandonment. Representative Rokeberg believed that the controversy in the bill was resolved in the House by clarifying in statute that the length of the parent's incarceration, the age of the child, and a significant amount of time would have to occur before this would be considered. The procedure to terminate parental rights is a lengthy, full hearing before the Superior Court in order to protect the rights of everyone involved. The state courts and departments must consider the Indian Child Welfare Act because it is a federal statute. In conclusion, Representative Rokeberg urged support HB 339. Number 392 PEGGY THOMAS, foster parent, informed the committee that she was the foster parent in the A.M. v State of Alaska. When Ms. Thomas received the two children, Mark was four and Samantha was 18 months old. The children have been with Ms. Thomas for six years. The Tlingit mother of the children has relinquished her parental rights and would like the children to be available for adoption. The children have contact with their mother. Currently, the father is in prison in Palmer after being convicted of theft and sexual abuse of a minor in the second degree. The sexual abuse was against Mark and Samantha's half sister. There is no reconciliation for the mother and father of Mark and Samantha. She informed the committee that the father is due to be released May 14th. The children have court ordered phone contact with their father every week. She emphasized that the children need some permanency. Ms. Thomas urged the committee to support HB 339. SENATOR SALO inquired as to how HB 339 would effect Ms. Thomas' case. PEGGY THOMAS said that the bill will not effect her case. SENATOR SALO asked how the bill could have effected Ms. Thomas' case. PEGGY THOMAS believed that the bill would have allowed the judge to terminate the father's rights on the basis of the father's background and the likelihood that the sexual abuse would continue. SENATOR SALO asked Ms. Thomas if she expected the father to want the children back. PEGGY THOMAS replied yes. The father must complete some requirements of the Division of Family & Youth Services (DFYS) before he can have the children back. Number 432 DIANE WORLEY, Director of the Division of Family & Youth Services, stated that the department supports HB 339. This bill would not effect all children of incarcerated parents, only a small number of children would be impacted. If there is a caring, loving parent in charge of the children, then the children would not be in need of aid. This bill would only effect those cases in which a parent or both parents were incarcerated for an extended amount of time, and no arrangements had been made for the children. The likelihood of the conduct of the parent would also be a point to consider. Ms. Worley reiterated that HB 339 does not effect the Indian Child Welfare act. HB 339 would probably not impact a lot of cases, but would help in cases such as Ms. Thomas'. SENATOR LEMAN recalled a case in which two people murdered three people in East Anchorage. One of the murderers was a 13-year-old girl who was subsequently convicted and incarcerated. During her incarceration, the 13-year-old became pregnant and delivered a child. That child was taken from the 13-year-old and raised by her mother. Senator Leman assumed that in such a case, the court would want to terminate parental rights if possible. Would HB 339 effect such a case? DIANE WORLEY explained that in such a case, the 13-year-old's parental rights may not be terminated if her mother was willing and able to raise the child. The decision to terminate parental rights in such a case would also depend upon the wishes of the mother of the 13-year-old. The mother of the 13-year-old could also take legal guardianship of the child. There are many factors that could be taken into account depending upon the circumstances. SENATOR MILLER in the same case posed by Senator Leman, what if a third non-related party wanted to adopt the child? Could HB 339 be used to terminate parental rights or would it just make the process easier? DIANE WORLEY explained that DFYS first looks for relative placement of a child. If there are no relatives, then foster care or adoption would be the next possibility. In the case posed by Senator Leman, if the 13-year-old was going to be incarcerated for the majority of the child's youth then HB 339 could come into play. Number 488 CHAIRMAN GREEN asked if the termination of parental rights establishes long-term foster care or adoption. Are those the options? DIANE WORLEY clarified that the termination of parental rights could result in adoption by a third party or a relative, a guardianship, or a permanent foster adopt placement. SENATOR SALO inquired as to what would prevent a new hearing regarding the termination of parental rights in a case such as Ms. Thomas' if the statute changed. DIANE WORLEY understood that in Ms. Thomas' case the father will be released soon. If the father is incarcerated again, then HB 339 would apply. In Ms. Thomas' case, the actions of the father could lead to the indications that he is not a fit parent. SENATOR SALO said that waiting for the father to reoffend would place the children in danger. DIANE WORLEY agreed, but noted that DFYS will do everything possible to protect the children. If DFYS feels that placing the children in the father's care would put the children in danger, DFYS would not allow it to occur. REPRESENTATIVE ROKEBERG pointed out that Ms. Thomas' case is still in litigation regarding such issues. SENATOR GREEN understood that DFYS already has the authority to assess whether an incarcerated parent who is released could adequately care for their children. DFYS is concerned with parents who face long-term incarceration. DIANE WORLEY agreed. Number 522 JAN RUTHERDALE, Assistant Attorney General in the Department of Law, stated that the department supports the passage of HB 339. She informed the committee that she represented the state in Ms. Thomas' case. The state alleged many grounds, but the court only went on one ground. The case was reversed on that ground and remanded. She pointed out that other grounds remain such as the sexual abuse of the step-sister of the children. Ms. Rutherdale felt confident that the court would find that the children are in imminent danger of sexual abuse. This case is a sad comment on the system. With HB 339, the termination of parental rights in such cases would be easier. The court would review if the parent would be incarcerated for a significant portion of the child's minority and has the parent failed to make adequate arrangements for the child. HB 339 would not come into play if permanent arrangements have been made for the child. Ms. Rutherdale said that HB 339 could apply to someone in jail for a significant amount of time who has not made arrangements for their child when the bill goes into effect. SENATOR MILLER moved to report CSHB 339(JUD) am with individual recommendations and accompanying fiscal notes out of committee. Hearing no objection, it was so ordered. There being no further business before the committee, the meeting was adjourned at 9:55 a.m.