Legislature bans sex offenders from holding school board positions

Published: Monday, March 18, 2024 - 5:05am
Updated: Monday, March 18, 2024 - 3:32pm

A bill to prohibit registered sex offenders from serving on public school boards passed out of the Arizona Legislature last week, but Republicans declined to extend the prohibition to individuals operating private schools that receive school voucher money.

The Arizona House of Representatives and Arizona Senate passed the bill with unanimous bipartisan support. The bill would ban individuals who are subject to the state’s sex offender registration law from being elected or appointed to a public school district governing board.

During a committee meeting of the House Education Committee last month, Rep. Nancy Gutierrez (D-Tucson) sought to amend the bill to also ban those individuals from operating private schools that receive state voucher money.

“I think this is a good underlying bill that protects Arizona students, and all I wanted to do with this amendment is protect more students,” Gutierrez said. 

Gutierrez cited the story of Dyllon DePalma, a Gilbert martial arts teacher who was indicted last year for allegedly having sexual contact with a minor. His family’s martial arts studio receives state school voucher money, according to 12 News.

But the amendment failed to gain traction with Gutierrez’s Republican colleagues.

Rep. Rachel Jones (R-Tucson) said she doesn't  believe the government should regulate private institutions and that, in her experience, private schools already subject employees to fingerprint clearance screenings. 

“So if a parent chooses to take their tax dollars out and put it toward a private school, it’s that parent's job to figure out if that’s an institution they trust to educate their child well, keep their child safe, etc. It’s not the government’s job,” Jones said.  

EDITOR'S NOTE: This story has been updated to reflect that private schools receive school voucher money, not charter schools.

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