BCSO, APS conflict over Operation Educational Encouragement

Education

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – A program intended to help kids, has become a point of controversy for two public agencies in our state. The Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office said it has been doing welfare checks at student’s houses who aren’t showing up for virtual classes, getting tips from educators on who is skipping. However, Albuquerque Public Schools said that is against district policy.

It sounded like a good idea. “This is supposed to be a proactive effort to encourage parents to get kids online or back into that virtual environment,” Sgt. Amy Dudewicz with BCSO said.

Last week, the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office announced Operation Educational Encouragement. Deputies are going door-to-door to educate parents of children who have not been attending classes. It seemed like APS was on board. “We will have that open communication and dialogue,” Sgt. Dudewicz said at the news conference.

However, APS said the district can’t share information about attendance with law enforcement. APS said it is prohibited from releasing any personally identifiable information without parental consent unless it is a case involving abuse or neglect. BCSO claims its APS employees provided this information to them.

“We have a large amount of referrals to our substations and certain districts, specifically from APS teachers, counselors and employees,” BCSO public information coordinator Jayme Fuller said.

APS said that they have no information about counselors sharing this information with law enforcement, and it would be against policy to do so. The district said no one at APS leadership or cabinet-level knew about this operation until the announcement, but BCSO told a different story. “APS was fully aware of the future operation taking place,” Fuller said.

Amid the pushback, KRQE News 13 asked BCSO if they are going to roll the program back. “No,” Fuller said.

“Some of those referrals are coming in as certainly education neglect, but there are concerns from some of these administrators and counselors and things like that about physical neglect or physical abuse and kids are either not being taken care of at all or potentially in an abusive or dangerous situation, and that is correlating to their educational neglect. These referrals might not necessarily be specified to their attendance but well-being in general.”

Several APS school board members said they were also unaware of the operation. One wrote in an email to constituents that they believe the sheriff’s office is ‘acting unilaterally, using the worst possible actions for addressing attendance issues.’

BCSO said they have reached out to APS and the school board for a sit-down meeting to get on the same page.

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