Colorado: “Privacy Protections For Educators” Bill Passes, Looks To Protect Educators From Doxxing

Legislation aimed at preventing doxxing of Colorado educators was signed into law on Thursday by Governor Jared Polis.

If an educator or a member of their family receives a threat of violence, they may request that their personal information be deleted from government websites. Addresses, telephone numbers, and e-mail addresses are all examples of private information.  “We shouldn’t have to pass this bill. Unfortunately, today, we do,” said bill sponsor Sen. Jeff Bridges, D-Greenwood Village, while debating the bill on the Senate floor. “We have a coarsening of the political dialogue in this country and somehow teachers have ended up in the crosshairs. They should never feel threatened for doing their job for our kids.”

According to Bridges, the recent events that took place in Douglas County, during which the names of hundreds of teachers faced the possibility of exposure as a result of their participation in a demonstration, served as inspiration for the law. In order to avoid “something truly horrific” from occurring in the state, he said that the law is necessary.  Teachers in the Douglas County School District went on strike in February to protest the dismissal of Superintendent Corey Wise by the school board’s new majority. The strike included as many as 1,500 teachers. Teachers who took part in the demonstration afterwards saw posters instructing them to “get out and leave” on their vehicles.

Committee members were given testimony from many teachers who said they were concerned about their personal information being leaked online and being followed home from school.

In May, the House voted 46-16 to approve the measure, after the Senate’s 25-9 decision in April. Twenty-five Republicans have spoken out against the measure because it would restrict the public’s ability to see particular days when an educator misses work under Colorado’s open records legislation.  “Because they work for the people, they should be visible and accountable to the people,” said Sen. Paul Lundeen, R-Monument, while voting against the bill. “This idea of obfuscating, hiding political communication by a class of individuals who work for the public, I’ve got a problem with that.”

In response to a records request for the names of Douglas County teachers who had been absent because of illness on the day in question, the bill backers included this provision. The district first agreed to provide the identities of the instructors who were absent from work, but subsequently changed its mind and declared the request had been canceled.

One of the witnesses who spoke out against the measure was an educator from Douglas County who said that many instructors are leaving the state because of harassment like what happened there. Teaching about evolution and equality, as well as enforcing face mask regulations, have been cited as examples of threats teachers have received.

A study of the 39,000 members of the Colorado Education Association indicated that over 67% of the instructors are contemplating retiring or leaving at the conclusion of this school year. This comes at a time when the COVID-19 pandemic has compounded Colorado’s and the nation’s teacher shortage. There are existing privacy laws in place for law enforcement and public defenders in the state of Colorado. Additionally, House Bill 1041 passed into law in March included health care professionals, code enforcement officers and child representatives and animal control officers in the list of those covered by the new legislation.

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