Do Okla Board of Ed Members Need their Own Investigator?

Barresi, Ford, SDE, Board of Education
Amy Ford (R) looks on June 6, 2014, as then SDE chief Janet Barresi reads a statement after having been defeated in the primary. Photo by Brett Dickerson

In an unusual turn of events, some members of the Oklahoma Board of Education are promoting legislation that would give them their own investigator who would be under their control.

Be sure to give your response in the poll at the end of this post.

If the legislation passes as it is currently worded, that investigator would NOT be integrated into the regular lines of accountability within the SDE. Neither would that person be under the supervision or direction of the superintendent.

The current members of Board of Education are all appointees of Governor Mary Fallin who supported the last Superintendent of Public Instruction, Janet Barresi.

Barresi was defeated in the Republican primary in June of last year by Joy Hofmeister who went on to win the election in November. She is now the new state superintendent.

A recent turn of events at the Board of Education are described and analyzed in my last post, Are Okla GOP Politicians Still For a Strong Supt? 

Since that post and posts by fellow bloggers Claudia Swisher, Rick Cobb, and Rob Miller, there has been considerable discussion about Senate Bill 301, which was mentioned in that dispute, and which has been passionately promoted and defended by board member Amy Ford and several other supporters.

The face of the bill calls for measures that are intended to eliminate sexual predators from being hired or re-hired into classrooms, or from keeping their licenses.

Objections to this bill raise the issue that there are already law enforcement mechanisms clearly in place to prosecute sexual predators. Objectors argue that there is no need for this kind of redundancy, especially since the SDE already has a process where they can take away a teaching license for convictions of this kind.

In his post, Cobb argued,

Any school employee who suspects a child is being abused already has to report it to DHS. If we suspect a child is a victim of a crime, we already have to report it to law enforcement. If we fail to do this, we have already broken the law. Passing SB 301 doesn’t do anything new.

But the heaviest comments on social media have been toward the ugly possibility that the Fallin-appointed board members will try to run their own attack operation against the elected superintendent, Hofmeister, using the investigator.

Hofmeister’s predecessor hired an investigator at the very end of her term to investigate teachers and administrators.

Some claim that he resigned at 11:59 AM on Inauguration Day when Hofmeister’s term began at Noon.

There is speculation that if the board had the opportunity, they would hire that same person themselves, closing the circle of those who resent Hofmeister and want to check her influence at the SDE.

Obviously, for some, that risk is outweighed by the opportunity to pay special attention to the issue of sexual predators in the public school classroom.

What do you think?

[yop_poll id=”2″]