Parents question Re-2 weapons policy
RIFLE – The mother of a student at Highland Elementary School is concerned that parents are not informed when weapons are found on campus. She learned in a roundabout way that a student brought a BB gun to the school in late February.The mother said she was surprised the school did not issue a formal statement about the incident.State statutes limit what Garfield School District Re-2 can share with the public, Re-2 Superintendent Gary Pack said.The mother said she was upset the school kept the incident under wraps and wished parents would have been informed. The Post Independent is withholding the mother’s name to protect her child from any harassment by the student who brought the BB gun to school. The mother also said she would have expected and wanted the school to take advantage of the learning opportunity the situation presented by holding a schoolwide assembly to explain to kids the best way to respond if they see a weapon. The mother of a boy threatened with a knife at Rifle Middle School earlier this year had a similar concern. That mother’s name is also being withheld to protect her son’s identity. Information about the boy who threatened her son and the consequences he faced was hard to come by, she said after the incident.”We would like to tell parents a lot more than we can,” Pack said. “But we can’t without violating a student’s right to due process.”Confidentiality and privacy rank supreme in the hierarchy of rights to preserve in a situation where a student faces disciplinary action, Pack said.Gary Sibigtroth, the assistant commissioner at the Colorado Department of Education, said the statutes are broad and he couldn’t quote one that specifically says the school can’t discuss the issue with the greater community.”But districts try to protect kids and their privacy, and that keeps them from legal issues down the road.” Sibigtroth said.He said districts are under no obligation to share information with the public, especially in a disciplinary situation unless it directly concerns the health and welfare of other students in the school.In Re-2, Pack said, principals will inform parents if they don’t feel the situation is already under control.”If, potentially, the weapon was not confiscated, or if we don’t know who was involved, we’ll inform parents,” Pack saidHowever, Pack said, in an instance where the weapon was confiscated and the student faces an administrative hearing for his or her expulsion, the school won’t divulge details that might compromise due process.”The principal is in a very precarious situation here,” Pack said. “These situations can end up in litigation, and people are pretty sensitive about where information comes from.”Pack said schools do not usually issue a statement when a weapon is found at school, but if parents call, administrators will not lie.”But we’re very limited,” Pack said. “We would tell them there was an incident and it’s under investigation.” He said inquisitive parents would not be told what kind of weapon was found or if and how it was used.”It’s complicated, trying to give as much information as you can and still protect the right to due process,” Pack said.”
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