Friday, June 22, 2018
Education

Parent locked out of Gov. Scott's school meetings because of security check

TALLAHASSEE — La'Tasha Reed Dullivan wanted to attend the governor's education listening tour when he arrived at her son's charter school last week. But, even though she has passed numerous state security screenings and is authorized to work with disabled children and their families, she was rejected.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement had determined that Dullivan was a security risk.

"Because of confidentiality, we can't disclose why an individual person was denied except to say each person is evaluated on a case-by-case basis,'' said Gretl Plessinger, FDLE spokeswoman. She would not clarify what is deemed a security risk.

No one was more surprised to hear this than Dullivan.

Since 1993, she has passed routine Level 2 background checks as a child care worker and, since 2005, as a Medicaid provider authorized to screen young children and recommend services for the Department of Children and Families' Early Steps program. Those background checks include fingerprinting, national and state criminal history checks, driver records and a search for any arrest record.

To be selected as one of the parents to talk to the governor, she was asked to fill out a form with her driver's license, Social Security number and date of birth.

But when the principal at the Governor's Academy Charter School in Tallahassee informed her that she had been rejected and couldn't attend, Dullivan got worried.

"I thought someone stole my identity or something,'' said Dullivan, who left DCF in January and now trains Medicaid providers for the University of South Florida in Tallahassee.

On Saturday, she ran a check on herself through FDLE's criminal history database. The report read: "FDLE found no Florida criminal history based on the information provided.''

"I assumed there were other things," Dullivan concluded. Maybe it was because she is a registered Democrat. Maybe it was because the room was full. "I am not an unsafe person," she told the Times/Herald.

Melissa Sellers, a spokeswoman for Gov. Rick Scott, blamed the FDLE for rejecting Dullivan and denied that the governor's office was screening parents for their political affiliation. The office has invited Dullivan to meet with the governor one-on-one on Oct. 2, she said.

"We are working with the FDLE to balance their security concerns with the governor's desire to hear from as many Floridians as possible,'' she said. "We have worked with the principal to reach out to this parent."

Dullivan said she is willing to meet but will request an explanation of why she was considered a security risk.

The FDLE won't release what criteria it uses to determine which parents are deemed a security risk for meeting the governor. Plessinger said it has been a long-standing practice for the FDLE to screen "anyone who meets with the governor, whether it's at his office, at the mansion or in a public meeting."

But the agency won't elaborate on how it decides which meetings to screen and which to allow to occur spontaneously.

Dullivan said she has nothing against the governor.

"I just wanted to hear what's happening to my child's education so that I am prepared,'' she said. "Not that I had a gripe — I just wanted to listen — but I didn't get that far."

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