Personnel got discipline info from child's file

Discussion in 'Elementary Education' started by pnwest, Feb 22, 2011.

  1. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    Feb 24, 2011

    How is your son/daughter doing?
     
  2. pnwest

    pnwest Rookie

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    Feb 24, 2011

    Thanks for the thoughtful advice. This is really what the situation comes down to.

    There are a lot of things I'd like to add, but can't for privacy reasons.
     
  3. pnwest

    pnwest Rookie

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    Feb 24, 2011

    What a refreshing post, thank you. Also, that reminds us of what this is really about.

    He's fine and oblivious to all of this. It looks now like our second grader will either be the next Stephen Hawking or he'll end up being homeless. LOL.
     
  4. pnwest

    pnwest Rookie

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    Feb 24, 2011

    That's the problem. Money was involved from the first second when my spouse's employer made the unlawful action of accessing my child's student file for purposes of discrediting the child's mom; not only in her employment situation, but in her relationship with the Principal as a co-worker and as a parent. It's just wrong.

    Regardless of whether or not they did damage this time, my child's student record is not to be used as a way to discredit the parent. That is why FERPA exists: Family Educational Rights and Privacy.

    There are other considerations in this besides the exchange of just the dates. That is only what has been agreed to by all. There is more to the story.

    Personnel has a history of being very aggressive and inappropriate. And after this most recent revelation of their blatant disregard for FERPA, we have to ask ourselves if there have been previous instances of personnel violating our rights that MAY have affected our pay as a district employee.

    We only call it a "blatant" disregard for FERPA because we stood in front of the leaders and "screamed" that it was a violation and that we'd like it to stop. They said it wasn't.

    If you're an educator and you think nothing wrong has happened here, you should read FERPA so that you don't accidentally violate the law.

    I'm not a lawyer. Just a parent. I may be interpreting FERPA incorrectly, but no one here has been able to convince us that FERPA does indeed allow for the Principal to give student record information to personnel for non-educational purposes.

    I am in an industry with lots of regulations also and I can understand the lack of enthusiasm for FERPA and especially the way in which it ties your hands at times. But, I ask that you take FERPA on good faith, and consider that every word in the law was put there for a real reason that you may not realize.

    I'm not usually this intense in presenting my points. We are not trying to get people to agree with us. We want to hear the disagreements too so we can take as much into consideration as possible.

    EDIT: when I say "screaming" I mean we placed the specific question before them in an obvious and formal manner.
     
  5. czacza

    czacza Multitudinous

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    Feb 24, 2011

    I wish you and your child well.
     
  6. 3Sons

    3Sons Connoisseur

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    Feb 24, 2011

    I tend to agree with your overall view that it could be a violation, though I haven't reviewed case law on FERPA lately. It does indeed cover situations such as the janitor (or anyone, for a non-educational reason) receiving educational records, and disciplinary records clearly fall into the category of educational records.

    However, note that you're generally not eligible for any damages under FERPA. You can make a formal complaint, and the penalty can include loss of funding for the institution, but none of that money would come to you. My guess is that the complaint would more likely result in an audit or review of district practices than an outright defunding.

    If you weren't still employed by them, then it might be worthwhile to make the complaint to get the practice stopped. Since you are employed, you could be making your life a lot harder if you do so.

    Good luck with whatever you decide.

    Educational institutions do violate FERPA regularly, often by accident.
     
  7. kcjo13

    kcjo13 Phenom

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    Feb 24, 2011

    I'm going to ask my question again, since it got buried:

    How did the personnel department know to call the principal? What gave them the idea that your child had been suspended?
     
  8. pnwest

    pnwest Rookie

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    Feb 24, 2011

    This has been addressed previously. Sorry I missed your post when you brought up again. Thanks for participating.

    Parent took time off because of child's suspension and listed that reason on the form. And gave the suspension dates on the form.

    Personnel called Principal to confirm suspension dates as listed by the child's mom on her request for leave of absence form. They were just trying to confirm dates.
     
  9. Cerek

    Cerek Aficionado

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    Feb 24, 2011

    That being the case, I REALLY cannot see why you are complaining. The mom already listed the dates AND the reason for those dates. Therefore, the information was no longer "privileged". The mom already released it.

    I have looked over FERPA and, frankly, I do NOT see any violation based on what you've told us. The main focus of FERPA is to protect the student, not the parent(s), and I simply do not see that the student's rights or privileges have been violated by the principal confirming information that was voluntarily given to personnel.

    "Screaming" at the leaders that it is a violation (or presenting a formal complaint) does NOT make it true. It just makes it your opinion. An opinion they obviously disagree with. Shouting the argument won't change that.

    I deleted my earlier post because I didn't want to sound callous. I DO hope everything is going well with your son. But you said you wanted to hear disagreements, so that's what I'm doing.

    The more posts I read, the more it sounds like the REAL issue is you and your wife being upset that Personnel was willing and able to follow-up and confirm the information given on their own. You may not like the fact they did it, but that doesn't make their actions illegal or even unfair. EVERY business has a right to check out the information given by employees about time off, if they choose to do so.

    You've cited FERPA many times and claimed their actions violated the "best interests" of your child, but I've not seen any evidence offered that your son was affected by the actions at all. In fact, we've not even been told exactly how your spouse was affected by the actions either, other than the two of you aren't happy with the action taken because it apparently cost you some money (how it cost you money has not been adequately explained either).

    One other question that I've been meaning to ask is why your spouse needing to take a leave of absence, rather than just a couple of days. How long was your son's suspension? A leave of absence is usually for an extended medical condition, surgery or birth of a child. Maybe it's just a difference of semantics, but "leave of absence" usually indicates several days (or weeks) of continuous absence rather than 1-3 days spent at home with a child serving OSS.
     
  10. monsieurteacher

    monsieurteacher Aficionado

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    Feb 24, 2011

    Here you can take a one day leave of absence... essentially "leave without pay".
     
  11. kcjo13

    kcjo13 Phenom

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    Feb 24, 2011


    EXACTLY! That's what I've been trying to get across. If the op stated time off was needed for a child's suspension, then no wonder they called the principal!
     
  12. pnwest

    pnwest Rookie

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    Feb 25, 2011

    Thank you Cerek for taking the time to consider this. I don't mean to upset anyone.

    It was emergency leave for 3 days suspension.

    Every business DOES NOT have the right to call the principal and get student record information. I think we talked about that earlier. They should ASK THE PARENT for proof.

    I think I've addressed most of the other points and our concerns related to them specifically in my previous posts.

    I'm sorry if I'm yelling.

    What else did those two discuss on the phone? Who else is Personnel calling? Our school psychologist? Maybe personnel will call them "in the course of business" to get information that is then used against my spouse.

    They're talking about you KCJO13. You called in sick Friday. They heard through the rumor mill that you were at the boat show that day with your kid. You WERE sick, but you were just picking up your spouse who was working there. Personnel calls your child's principal to see if your kid was out sick from school. He was. He also tells Personnel that your kid's been sick a lot lately and he thinks there is a divorce looming. They're all friends who do stuff together after work. He asks you about it later and you explain things. Sick leave approved. No harm done.

    Later in the day, at lunch, personnel sits next to psychologist and talks about your kid. Psychologist shares that things aren't good at home. They golf on the weekends.

    Weeks later, having known none of this, you are in the possible running to be the new principle. Personnel immediately rules you out because they know you have family problems.

    We think there is a serious cultural problem in the district regarding this issue. Maybe you don't understand because you have loving people in your organization.

    FERPA says that all student discipline record info is protected. And then proceeds to grant VERY specific exceptions. The FIRST exemption states that the record may be shared within the educational institution ONLY in the case that the disclosure is for the direct educational benefit of the child.

    Your opinion IS important to us. But if you are making claims of fact please cite them.

    Just because the district tells us that their lawyers said it was okay doesn't mean it is. It smelled rotten from the beginning.

    They claimed it wasn't student record info. Then they said that if it was, it would still be okay because they have a FERPA exemption for doing this specific thing. When asked to cite the exemption they remain silent.

    From my own reading and from other sources, I feel fairly confident that FERPA has been violated.

    If we file a FERPA complaint, and IF they find against the district, they will issue a letter to us and to the District stating how FERPA applies to the facts in this situation.

    In your opinion, should we file a FERPA complaint so that we really know what the facts are?

    Have any of you ever witnessed the repercussions of a FERPA investigation? We are asking honestly. We don't want to harm people who are a victim of the culture, the ones who truly have the best interest of our child in mind.
     
  13. pnwest

    pnwest Rookie

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    Feb 25, 2011

    Or when personnel calls, the principal should say: No problem, I'll be able to disclose the info as soon as I have a signed release from the parent.
     
  14. Cerek

    Cerek Aficionado

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    Feb 25, 2011

    I'm not upset, I just don't agree with your complaint on this issue and stated the reasons why. There's an adage a member of another forum used that I loved; Don't raise your voice, improve your argument. If the district didn't agree with your initial complaint, making that same complaint more forcibly or loudly isn't going to do any good. You need to find a different argument. If Argument A doesnt' work, shouting it at the leaders isn't going to make it any stronger. It will just make them more resistant to your complaint.

    I'm sorry your son was suspended for 3 days. That must have been a serious incident or a culmination of several smaller ones. I'm very glad the P was gracious enough to give him a punishment that might address the behavior without permanently removing him from the school.

    BTW, how old is your son?

    You're right that every business does not have the right to call the P and ask for student information.....hmmm, actually, I suppose they do have the right to call and ASK, but that doesn't mean the P will give them the info. But this wasn't a case of an outside business asking for information, it was an IN-house inquiry from the P's own district asking him to just confirm information they had already received. In that case, I can certainly understand the P not believing anything is wrong with confirming the information asked.

    Every business may not have the right to obtain student information, but they DO have the right to make internal inquiries. Your spouse and the son are part of the same "company", so to speak. The scenarios you presented earlier were of an outside company calling the school, but a more accurate comparison would be you and your wife working in different departments for the same company and you requesting a 3 days off to be with your wife because she is at home sick OR because she got in an argument with her boss and he sent her home for 3 days to cool off. In THAT case, you can be ASSURED Personnel will be calling your wife's department head to confirm if she is really out those 3 days and why.

    Getting back to the outside business calling the school, I seriously doubt the P would just volunteer the information to the company personnel person, BUT if they called and said Mrs. B requested a leave of absence from our company because her son had been suspended from school on dates X, Y, and Z. We need to confirm these dates, if possible, to determine whether Mrs. B can be paid for the requested leave or if it has to be leave without pay. Can you confirm for us if her son was, indeed, not attending school for the 3 days in question?" If they call up and ask straight out, was Student B suspended for 3 days last week?", the P will most likely say "I'm sorry, I can neither confirm or deny any such information". However, if they say "Mrs. B told us her son was serving a suspension from school on these dates. Can you just confirm if the son was, in fact, in attendance or not on those dates?"

    In THAT case, the P isn't confirming the suspension (although that information has already been giving), he is just confirming Student B wasn't in school on those 3 days and that could easily fall under the directory information he IS allowed to give out.

    You're not yelling at us, you just said you were yelling at the school leaders. I can absolutely understand your frustration with this issue and why that would lead to strong emotions, but as I said before, "yelling" your argument won't make it any stronger. You will (possibly) have better luck just finding a different argument or angle from which to approach the issue.

    All of that is just pure speculation. Based on the information you've given here, you really have no basis for thinking anything OTHER than confirmation of the dates in question were discussed or that any imagined conversations with the psychologist occurred regarding your spouse or son. This sounds more like paranoia than a logical argument and if you are using such arguments to support your complaint, I can see why it would be very easy for the district leaders to dismiss them arbitrarily.

    Does that mean such a culture doesn't exist in the district? Of course not. We all know such friendships and outside activities DO occur and (even though it is technically wrong), teachers, admins, and staff members DO discuss certain kids, teachers and/or coworkers among themselves - either at lunch, during planning, in the breakroom or outside of school. Whether such conversations constitute a violation of FERPA or not is for the lawyers and courts to decide, but chances are they will claim no real harm was done unless you can show irrefutable proof your wife was passed over for the promotion based on these speculated conversations.

    I think I've listed MY interpretations clearly enough. There is an exemption for directory information. There is also an exemption for specific individuals to request the information for the purpose of an audit or evaluation. In that case, ALL Personnel would have to do is say they are just trying to confirm the dates of suspension to properly evaluate the number of leaves she has requested this year.

    This is the point on which - in my opinion - you are completely wrong. Unless your OWN lawyer has told you differently, then the interpretation of the school lawyers WILL take precedence over the interpretation of an angry layman. One interpretation is based (supposedly) on law while the other is based on emotion. That's a very easy call for any district to make.

    I agree they should cite the specific exemption, but it seems the only way you will get that accomplished is by hiring your own lawyer and having him/her ask the question.

    Are you a lawyer? Have you retained a lawyer that has confirmed your interpretation? If not, then it really doesn't matter how strongly YOU feel FERPA has been violated. All that will really matter is an opposing legal opinion.

    Personally, I think you should let the matter go and move on. Any "fight" with the district will only result in REAL repercussions towards your wife rather than the imagined ones she is facing now. As a previous poster said, if you insist on continuing to rock the boat - your wife is the one that will eventually be thrown out.

    Again, I DO completely understand your frustration. I've fought my own battles against "city hall" and absolutely HATED the fact there was nothing I could really do, even though I also felt very passionately I had them dead to rights. The end result was I lost a lot of time AND money for my efforts and city hall went on about their business as usual.

    It's a hard lesson to learn and a bitter pill to swallow, but sometimes you have to know when you are fighting a battle you cannot win.
     
  15. 3Sons

    3Sons Connoisseur

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    Feb 25, 2011

    IMO, you should not. And I believe you have at least an arguable case, even with Cerek's argument.

    Keep in mind first of all, that the best you are hoping for is a letter and a promise not to do it again. Although there's a theoretical chance they'd remove federal funding from the school (which would probably be a huge negative for you), I think it's unlikely.

    The "internal communications" issue doesn't really apply. While most organizations could share information freely, schools cannot share information about students freely, even internally. That's been specifically determined in FERPA cases.

    The "broken privilege" argument is a bit better -- but ultimately I don't think really works here either, because of the nature of FERPA. Consider that everyone involved in the school knows plenty of information incidentally that remains protected by FERPA. If my son gets detention I can simply ask him who else was there. However, if I go to the school with that knowledge and ask them to confirm, they will quite rightly refuse. If a student self-reports grades to colleges, the college cannot simply ask the school for verification without explicit consent (or, as noted by a previous poster, they can ask -- it's just that the school cannot provide the information).

    A judge (or really, an administrator -- a FERPA case will only very rarely get to the level of the courts) might disagree, or might use either of these factors as mitigation against the severity of any result.

    I guess the question is why you want to get this determination. I suspect pushing the issue will be more likely to worsen your reputation rather than improve it, even if you are found correct.

    I also suspect some of the other posters are suspicious that you've done something wrong. Personally, I am also -- few people would be so adamant over the principle if they were completely clean. However, whether you have or not should not impact the judgment of whether the school has acted appropriately. If your son hadn't been suspended at all they should not be able to defend their actions on that basis (it would change popular opinion, though).

    Of course, while it's impermissible for the principal to provide disciplinary information for your son, it's completely permissible for personnel to provide the principal with your leave record and reasons. They could simply give the principal that information and then leave it to him to determine whether you're falsifying records.

    Where Cerek is perfectly correct is that Personnel could as after the fact whether the student was in attendance on particular dates under the directory information exemption. As to audit/evaluation, I'm not really sure what that exemption means so can't speak to it. I'd suspect whoever is making the decision could probably decide either way on it.

    You could make the complaint. I think you'd be shooting yourself in the foot for no good purpose.

    Quoted for emphasis.
     
  16. pnwest

    pnwest Rookie

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    Feb 25, 2011

    Thank you both for your well thought out responses. Your insight is greatly appreciated.
     
  17. pnwest

    pnwest Rookie

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    Feb 26, 2011

    One thing you've all definitely helped us with is in knowing that the individuals involved probably did not knowingly violate FERPA.

    Everyone seems to know what to do when a stranger tries to get info. But no one seems to know what is proper when it's the administrator asking.

    You don't have to be a lawyer to understand FERPA if you read it carefully and repeatedly.

    ================================
    (Authority: 20 U.S.C. 1232g)
    "Dates of attendance"
    (a) The term means the period of time
    during which a student attends or
    attended an educational agency or
    institution. Examples of dates of
    attendance include an academic year, a
    spring semester, or a first quarter.
    (b) The term does not include specific
    daily records of a student's attendance at
    an educational agency or institution
    ===================================

    § 99.35 What conditions apply to
    disclosure of information for Federal
    or State program purposes?
    (a)(1) Authorized representatives of the
    officials or agencies headed by officials
    listed in § 99.31(a)(3) may have access
    to education records in connection with
    an audit or evaluation of Federal or State
    supported education programs, or for the
    enforcement of or compliance with
    Federal legal requirements that relate to
    those programs.

    ================================

    We've pretty much determined that there has been a violation.

    Now, we're deciding whether to file a complaint or not.
     

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