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District policy to notify parents of employee crimes

BY KRISTIN LUTZ | FEBRUARY 15, 2010 7:30 AM

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Iowa City School District officials are drafting a policy that would notify parents or guardians when a person who works with their children is accused of a crime.

Administrators currently conduct this process on a case-by-case basis.

A change will be beneficial, according to some officials.

“It is a policy that will help communicate better among parents, the School District, and employees,” said Lane Plugge, the Iowa City school superintendent.

Officials began drafting the policy after a parent complained they weren’t notified last year when an elementary-school bus driver was charged with third-degree sexual abuse, Plugge said. The driver had no previous record and the abuse didn’t involve a student, but parents still resented not being notified.

Last week, when a jury found former Lemme Elementary guidance counselor Donald Clark guilty of sexually abusing a student, officials notified parents by letter. They also held a public meeting to answer any questions parents had regarding the case.

All district employees undergo a background check before being hired. But once hired, they are only given further background checks on a case-by-case basis or periodically throughout their time of employment, Plugge said.

“It’s not a very extensive hiring process as far as background checks go, especially for people who will work with kids,” said Kevin Belcher, a substitute teacher in the School District.

The School Board is working with legal experts to help oversee the many legal aspects of the policy, Plugge said. School officials are still unsure what extent the parents would be notified if a teacher commits a crime.

In Des Moines, employees of the district must notify the Office of Human Resources of any criminal charges filed or pending against them within three business days, according to the district’s website.

However, the Des Moines district does not have a policy regarding notification to the parents when employees commit crimes, its website shows.

Because officials are still working on the policy, Plugge said, he is unsure when it will be implemented. The policy will help district officials decide how and under what circumstances to notify parents.

“The policy will benefit schools, parents, and the students to make sure everybody is on the same page,” said John Bacon, the principal of Lemme Elementary, 3100 E. Washington.


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