School safety bill: security vs. accountability

When the Senate considers a school safety and security bill — perhaps as early as Thursday — lawmakers will also decide on adding an exemption to the state’s public records law.

Senate Bill 1133 would require school districts to work with local sheriffs to write safety and security plans — which would be reviewed at least annually, and submitted to the State Department of Education.

The plans would be exempt from Idaho public records law. And when they amended the bill earlier this week, senators actually took the exemption a step further. The exemption now covers the “threat assessment results” districts must file with the state.

The issue boils down to security vs. accountability.

Sen. Marv Hagedorn, R-Meridian

In an interview after introducing the bill in late February, sponsor Sen. Marv Hagedorn said school boards, sheriffs and the state schools superintendent should be held accountable for keeping kids safe. “I wish there were an easier way to do that.”

But in arguing for the amendment Monday, Hagedorn said the threat assessments — which would grade schools on their readiness — should not be made public. These records, he said, would allow criminals to pinpoint the schools that would be most vulnerable to an attack.

The Idaho Press Club, a statewide media group, opposes the broad exemption, and wants some general information available for public review. The press club asked Hagedorn to change the exemption.

Disclosure: Kevin Richert is a member of the Idaho Press Club, and a former president and vice president of the organization.

Kevin Richert

Kevin Richert

Senior reporter and blogger Kevin Richert specializes in education politics and education policy. He has more than 30 years of experience in Idaho journalism. He is a frequent guest on "Idaho Reports" on Idaho Public Television and "Idaho Matters" on Boise State Public Radio. Follow Kevin on Twitter: @KevinRichert. He can be reached at [email protected]

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