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South Dakota schools confused by conflicts disclosure law

SIOUX FALLS (AP) — School administrators in South Dakota are struggling to interpret the state's new conflict disclosure law, saying it's confusing and overly broad.

The law spurred by recent state scandals went into effect this month. It requires school board members and administrators to disclose when contracts could lead to a personal conflict of interest.

Harrisburg Superintendent Jim Holbeck told the Argus Leader there's been little guidance from the state on implementation.

"We're telling our board members and administrators, 'Just disclose it,'" said Renee Ullom, Brandon Valley school board president. "Be open and transparent about it so there's no questions ... I'd rather be really, really safe than really, really sorry."

Other school districts are also playing it safe. Beresford School District board members have already drafted waivers in anticipation of adopting its disclosure policy in August. Superintendent Brian Fields said that board member Chris Savey plans to file a waiver to disclose that his mother works as a special education teacher aide at the Beresford elementary school.

Rep. Mark Mickelson, R-Sioux Falls, the bill's chief sponsor in this year's legislative session, said that's clearly beyond what the law intends for school leaders to disclose.

School Administrators of South Dakota executive director Rob Monson said the legislature may need to "dial back" the law to make it easier to apply.

"Every school board member and every school administrator believes in openness. ... (but) we've gone from 0 to 360 really fast," Monson said.

The Associated School Boards of South Dakota has submitted a list of questions about the law to Attorney General Marty Jackley's office. Spokeswoman Sara Rabern said the office is in the process of responding.

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