Pursuant to our publication of Department of Education (DOE) emails which revealed plans for DOE to provide sensitive personal student and teacher information to a computer data bank controlled by a company affiliated with News Corp. owner Rupert Murdoch and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, one parent has decided to take action.
The parent, who shall remain nameless here, sent an email to State Superintendent of Education John White directing that no information on his children be released by DOE under provisions of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).
Taking our cue from the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) which drafts model legislation for introduction by state lawmakers, we include his email to White here as a “model letter” for the purpose of prohibiting DOE from providing data to outside vendors.
To send your own message, here is John White’s email address:
My name is (PARENT’S NAME) and I am a parent of children in Louisiana public schools. This is to formally inform you that you do not have my permission to share my children’s personally identifiable student information with any external agency, researcher, non-profit group, vendor or government or quasi-government agency under any circumstances (specifically, name, DOB, SSN). They are public students in the (parish/city/parochial) school system and you have not asked my permission to share their information as required by law. I am purposefully informing you that you do not have permission to share their information unless I provide appropriate parental guidance. Their/his/her name(s) is/are (STUDENT’S OR STUDENTS’ NAME[S]). If you already have, I would like you to promptly request that his/her/their information be expunged from any data set you have already shared.
Mr. White, on the basis of your e-mails it appears you are planning on sharing this data and I will hold you personally responsible for any subsequent violations. I will be recommending that other parents likewise notify you if they do not wish their information to be shared with corporations/vendors whom you have agreed to not hold liable for any security breaches or unauthorized releases (which I don’t believe you have a legal right or authority to do). Moreover, any such release of personally identifiable information without each parent’s express permission will be a direct violation of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) and a willfully unnecessary one since you have non-personally identifiable student identifiers and have taken great pains to claim FERPA exclusions for all other releases of de-identified student data to the media, researchers, and the general public.
Please note the section in the last paragraph below. Schools may disclose, without consent, directory information. But you must notify us when doing so. You, however, do not have my consent and you are not a school. You have my absolute, unequivocal, official refusal on record.
You also do not have a legal right to require social security numbers from any student in Louisiana. I will be recommending parents and school districts to promptly stop providing them as you seem unwilling to guard this information as required by law.
Thank you for your prompt attention to this matter.
Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA)
The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) (20 U.S.C. § 1232g; 34 CFR Part 99) is a Federal law that protects the privacy of student education records. The law applies to all schools that receive funds under an applicable program of the U.S. Department of Education.
FERPA gives parents certain rights with respect to their children’s education records. These rights transfer to the student when he or she reaches the age of 18 or attends a school beyond the high school level. Students to whom the rights have transferred are “eligible students.”
• Parents or eligible students have the right to inspect and review the student’s education records maintained by the school. Schools are not required to provide copies of records unless, for reasons such as great distance, it is impossible for parents or eligible students to review the records. Schools may charge a fee for copies.
• Parents or eligible students have the right to request that a school correct records which they believe to be inaccurate or misleading. If the school decides not to amend the record, the parent or eligible student then has the right to a formal hearing. After the hearing, if the school still decides not to amend the record, the parent or eligible student has the right to place a statement with the record setting forth his or her view about the contested information.
• Generally, schools must have written permission from the parent or eligible student in order to release any information from a student’s education record. However, FERPA allows schools to disclose those records, without consent, to the following parties or under the following conditions (34 CFR § 99.31):
o School officials with legitimate educational interest;
o Other schools to which a student is transferring;
o Specified officials for audit or evaluation purposes;
o Appropriate parties in connection with financial aid to a student;
o Organizations conducting certain studies for or on behalf of the school;
o Accrediting organizations;
o To comply with a judicial order or lawfully issued subpoena;
o Appropriate officials in cases of health and safety emergencies; and
o State and local authorities, within a juvenile justice system, pursuant to specific State law.
Schools may disclose, without consent, “directory” information such as a student’s name, address, telephone number, date and place of birth, honors and awards, and dates of attendance. However, schools must tell parents and eligible students about directory information and allow parents and eligible students a reasonable amount of time to request that the school not disclose directory information about them. Schools must notify parents and eligible students annually of their rights under FERPA. The actual means of notification (special letter, inclusion in a PTA bulletin, student handbook, or newspaper article) is left to the discretion of each school.