SPJ Oregon member Garrett Andrews mentors students
May 19, 2017
The Oregon Territory Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists announces the first debate between Gov. Kate Brown and challenger Bud Pierce w...
SPJ Hosts Debate Sept. 24 Between Democratic Gov. Kate Brown and GOP Challenger Bud Pierce
July 6, 2016
Oregon journalists honored at annual SPJ awards ceremony
June 12, 2017
SPJ Oregon calls on Portland Public Schools to not restrict public information regarding teachers placed on leave
February 9, 2018
February 8, 2018—SPJ Oregon Territory, the largest association of journalists in the state, calls on the Portland Public Schools Board to reject language in the district’s draft contract that restricts public information regarding teachers placed on administrative leave.
The school district’s board is expected to vote on a new three-year contract between the district and teachers during its meeting on Thursday, February 8. SPJ asks members of the board to explain the intent of the proposed changes, which we don’t believe comply with the spirit and intent of state laws requiring government transparency.
The new contract attempts to restrict school administrators from confirming whether school employees, such as teachers, have been placed on paid administrative leave. It also would block them from disclosing the circumstances of such a placement. If implemented, a school’s staff could not learn why their colleague isn’t at work. A students’ parents could not know why their children’s educators are gone. And taxpayers may never learn how their money is being spent paying teachers not to work.
Portland Public Schools is also considering changing its public records policy, and the proposed contract gives the Portland Association of Teachers the right to negotiate changes to the public records policy.
“Whether a public school teacher — whose salary comes from public money — is placed on administrative leave, is something any member of the public should know. This is especially true when reasons for being placed on leave can include sexual abuse, harassment, and other inappropriate and unprofessional behavior that puts students in danger,” Amanda Waldroupe, the president of SPJ Oregon, said. “This information is obviously of the public interest and should not be something the district hides.”
As Oregon’s media outlets, including The Oregonian and The Portland Tribune have shown, Portland Public Schools has a long record of rebuffing legitimate public records requests. On numerous occasions the Multnomah County District Attorney has found those actions to violate Oregon Public Records Law.
In 2016, public records were instrumental in showing that Portland Public Schools — Oregon’s largest school district — did not proactively deal with the existence of lead in schools’ drinking water, and that the district’s behavior included ignoring parent’s concerns and withholding test results.
When Portland Tribune reporter Beth Slovic and parent advocate Kim Sordyl requested a list of employees placed on paid administrative leave in 2017, Portland Public Schools filed a lawsuit to block release ofthe records (the lawsuit is ongoing).
Public records also showed that Portland Public Schools continued to pay special education teacher Andrew Oshea even when he served jail time for charges that include violating a restraining order, assault, and drunk driving.
In fall 2017, the district delayed releasing a 2012 settlement agreement between the school district and former teacher Norm Scott, which showed that the district agreed to not disclose Scott’s history of sexually harassing female students. Scott went on to become a substitute teacher; in a single day, he sexually harassed six girls in an Oregon City school.
“Oregon’s largest school district needs to follow the state law that ensures the public can access records that show how the district works — not take actions to block that,” Waldroupe said.
Share on Facebook
Share on Twitter
I'm busy working on my blog posts. Watch this space!