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Our View: School Safety Bill Mired in Public Records Exemptions

Our View: School Safety Bill Mired in Public Records Exemptions

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Barksdale20

How does the government of Of the People, By the People and For the People become the government Despite the People? Slowly. One line at a time, inserted in a bill here or buried in a piece of legislation there.

These pieces of legislation fly through the Senate and then the House because they are well-intentioned. They speak to the zeitgeist of the moment — school safety and the fear that they will take our guns away. And what legislator would want to be seen opposing any pro-gun legislation these days? They decide the pesky details don’t matter in the shadow of the bigger picture. Or, worse, they don’t read the pesky details.

This is happening right now in Boise as a bill makes its way swiftly toward the Governor’s desk.

Senate Bill 1133, referred to often as the school safety bill, passed the Senate, 33-1, last Thursday, March 14.

Our own Magic Valley senators, Bert Brackett, Dean Cameron, Lee Heider, Jim Patrick and Wood River senator Michelle Stennett all voted in favor of Senate Bill 1133.

SB 1133 is scheduled for consideration in the House Education Committee today, Wednesday. On its face, SB 1133 is a good bill. It addresses school security concerns in a decidedly Idaho way.

SB 3311 would require school boards, in conjunction with the county sheriff’s office, to “develop, implement and maintain a school safety and security plan for every public ele-mentary and secondary school located within the district.”

According to the language of the bill, tools available within those safety plans include restricted entries, metal detectors and “authorization of persons to carry firearms.”

Crisis response training will be available to all students and employees of the school district and the school board will report annually to the state department of education on its plan and progress - including threat assessment. To those points, this bill shows leadership. It addresses the fears of so many teachers and parents in the wake of the Connecticut school shooting. But the bill also includes several public records exemptions that enter the murky water between addressing people’s fears and taking advantage of that fear.

Of the three-page bill, nearly two entire pages are dedicated to a list of documents that will be exempt from disclosure. That means the media will not be allowed to see them. Parents will not be allowed to request them. There will be no public oversight of the discussions in these records.

This newspaper sees as its mission to protect the public’s right to know. We fight for transparency in government, sometimes simply by being in the room as elected officials discuss the people’s business. And in this role, it is important for us to scream from the rooftops any time we see another document or another piece of information about the use of taxpayer dollars marked as “classified” or “exempt” from public scrutiny, especially when that exemption is overbroad.

We ask that as the House reviews this bill they closely examine the public records exemptions listed in its language. We understand that the purpose of some of the exemptions are designed to keep the details of school security plans away from criminal minds. But those exemptions listed in the bill aren’t even necessary because items like vulnerability assessments and evacuation plans are already covered under existing public records exemptions.

Otherwise, the list trails off far past considerations for student safety.

We also ask that some manner of accountability to the public, press and parents be included in the bill. Parents should not be in the dark about what is being done to protect their children. As the House reads the bill today, we ask that the language be amended in a way to “do no harm” to the citizens of this state, even as we do the good work that needs to be done to protect our schools.

SB 1133 lists the records exempt from disclosure — and because it is such a long and overbroad list, we will publish each exemption (verbatim).

* Investigatory records of a law enforcement agency, as defined in section 9-337(7), Idaho Code, under the conditions set forth in section 9-335, Idaho Code.

* Juvenile records of a person maintained pursuant to chapter 5, title 20, Idaho Code, except that facts contained in such records shall be furnished upon request in a manner determined by the court to persons and governmental and private agencies and institu-tions conducting pertinent research studies or having a legitimate interest in the protection, welfare and treatment of the juvenile who is thirteen (13) years of age or younger.

If the juvenile is petitioned or charged with an offense which would be a criminal offense if committed by an adult, the name, offense of which the juvenile was petitioned or charged and disposition of the court shall be subject to disclosure as provided in section 20-525, Idaho Code. Additionally, facts contained in any records of a juvenile maintained under chapter 5, title 20, Idaho Code, shall be furnished upon request to any school dis-trict where the juvenile is enrolled or is seeking enrollment.

* Records of the custody review board of the Idaho department of juvenile corrections, including records containing the names, addresses and written statements of victims and family members of juveniles, shall be exempt from public disclosure pursuant to section 20-533A, Idaho Code.

* The following records of the department of correction:

** Records of which the public interest in confidentiality, public safety, security and habilitation clearly outweighs the public interest in disclosure as identified pursuant to the authority of the Idaho board of correction under section 20-212, Idaho Code

** Records that contain any identifying information, or any information that would lead to the identification of any victims or witnesses;

** Records that reflect future transportation or movement of a prisoner;

** Records gathered during the course of the presentence investigation;

** Records of a prisoner, as defined in section 9-337(10), Idaho Code, or proba-tioner shall not be disclosed to any other prisoner or probationer.

** Records of buildings, facilities, infrastructures and systems held by or in the custody of any public agency only when the disclosure of such information would jeop-ardize the safety of persons or the public safety. Such records may include emergency evacuation, escape or other emergency response plans, vulnerability assessments, operation and security manuals, plans, blueprints or security codes. For purposes of this section “system” shall mean electrical, heating, ventilation, air conditioning and telecommunica-tion systems.

** Records of the commission of pardons and parole shall be exempt from public disclosure pursuant to section 20-213A, Idaho Code, and section 20-223, Idaho Code.

Records exempt from disclosure shall also include:

* Those containing the names, addresses and written statements of victims.

* Voting records of the sexual offender classification board. The written record of the vote to classify an offender as a violent sexual predator by each board member in each case reviewed by that board member shall be exempt from disclosure to the public and shall be made available upon request only to the governor, the chairman of the senate judiciary and rules committee, and the chairman of the house of representatives judiciary, rules and administration committee, for all lawful purposes.

* Records of the sheriff or Idaho state police received or maintained pursuant to sections 18-3302 and 18-3302H, Idaho Code, relating to an applicant or licensee.

* Records of investigations prepared by the department of health and welfare pursuant to its statutory responsibilities dealing with the protection of children, the rehabilitation of youth, adoptions and the commitment of mentally ill persons. For reasons of health and safety, best interests of the child or public interest, the department of health and welfare may provide for the disclosure of records of investigations associated with actions pursu-ant to the provisions of chapter 16, title 16, Idaho Code, prepared by the department of health and welfare pursuant to its statutory responsibilities dealing with the protection of children except any such records regarding adoptions shall remain exempt from disclosure.

* Records including, but not limited to, investigative reports, resulting from investigations conducted into complaints of discrimination made to the Idaho human rights commission unless the public interest in allowing inspection and copying of such records outweighs the legitimate public or private interest in maintaining confidentiality of such records. A person may inspect and copy documents from an investigative file to which he or she is a named party if such documents are not otherwise prohibited from disclosure by federal law or regulation or state law. The confidentiality of this subsection will no longer apply to any record used in any judicial proceeding brought by a named party to the complaint or investigation, or by the Idaho human rights commission, relating to the complaint of discrimination.

* Records containing information obtained by the manager of the Idaho state insurance fund pursuant to chapter 9, title 72, Idaho Code, from or on behalf of employers or employees contained in underwriting and claims for benefits files.

* The worker’s compensation records of the Idaho industrial commission provided that the industrial commission shall make such records available: (a) To the parties in any worker’s compensation claim and to the industrial special indemnity fund of the state of Idaho; or (b) To employers and prospective employers subject to the provisions of the Americans with disabilities act, 42 U.S.C. 12112, or other statutory limitations, who certify that the information is being requested with respect to a worker to whom the employer has extended an offer of employment and will be used in accordance with the provisions of the Americans with disabilities act, 42 U.S.C. 12112, or other statutory limitations; or (c) To employers and prospective employers not subject to the provisions of the Americans with disabilities act, 42 U.S.C. 12112, or other statutory limitations, provided the employer presents a written authorization from the person to whom the records pertain; or (d) To others who demonstrate that the public interest in allowing in-spection and copying of such records outweighs the public or private interest in maintaining the confidentiality of such records, as determined by a civil court of competent jurisdiction; or (e) Although a claimant’s records maintained by the industrial commission, including medical and rehabilitation records, are otherwise exempt from public disclosure, the quoting or discussing of medical or rehabilitation records contained in the industrial commission’s records during a hearing for compensation or in a written decision issued by the industrial commission shall be permitted; provided further, the true identifi-cation of the parties shall not be exempt from public disclosure in any written decision issued and released to the public by the industrial commission.

* Records of investigations compiled by the commission on aging involving vulnerable adults, as defined in section 18-1505, Idaho Code, alleged to be abused, neglected or exploited.

* Criminal history records and fingerprints, as defined by section 67-3001, Idaho Code, and compiled by the Idaho state police. Such records shall be released only in accordance with chapter 30, title 67, Idaho Code.

* Records furnished or obtained pursuant to section 41-1019, Idaho Code, regarding termination of an appointment, employment, contract or other insurance business relation-ship between an insurer and a producer.

* Records of a prisoner or former prisoner in the custody of any state or local correctional facility, when the request is made by another prisoner in the custody of any state or local correctional facility.

* Except as provided in section 72-1007, Idaho Code, records of the Idaho industrial commission relating to compensation for crime victims under chapter 10, title 72, Idaho Code.

* Records or information identifying a complainant maintained by the department of health and welfare pursuant to section 39-3556, Idaho Code, relating to certified family homes, unless the complainant consents in writing to the disclosure or the disclosure of the complainant’s identity is required in any administrative or judicial proceeding.

* School safety and security plans and related annual reports to the state board of education, as provided in section 33-1804, Idaho Code.

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