Open letter re shocking violation of student privacy rights in Tulsa

We received this message from Melissa Abdo this morning.  For more on this abominable violation of parent and student rights by Janet Barresi, the OK State Superintendent of Education, see Education officials post records of all students with appeals online and commentary by Diane Ravitch, Outrage in Oklahoma.  Unmentioned in the below is that all the students with appeals before the state board also had their appeals denied, while having their personal information posted online — a clear attempt to punish them and dissuade others from appealing in the future.  As explained here, many of them had exceptional stories; like a recent immigrant from Ghana who already had a scholarship to attend college that he must now sacrifice.  Another student had lost both parents, and yet another was made homeless when his apartment was destroyed by fire.  Melissa can be reached at TulsaAreaPLAC@yahoo.com

Dear Parents Across America:

I am writing as a supporter of your work, parent of Oklahoma public school children, and as an advocate of public education.

Janet Barresi, Oklahoma State Superintendent

We are fighting the same battles in Oklahoma, and our parent group has actively opposed many of the recent education reform measures in Oklahoma (A-F Grading system, Vouchers, High-stakes testing requirements for graduation, etc…)

This year we fought for (and won) an appeals process for students who will be denied a diploma, for not meeting the EOI [high-stakes testing] graduation  requirements.  Tuesday, June 5th our State Board of Education considered the appeals of 26 students.

What occurred was an unbelievable abuse of student privacy by our State Superintendent, Janet Barresi.

To appeal the graduation testing requirements, the students/parents must sign a FERPA waiver to allow State Department of Education and State Board of Education members permission discuss relevant records at the Board Meeting.

Under the leadership of our State Superintendent, those sensitive records (transcripts, EOI test scores, remediation attempts, letters discussing IEPs, learning challenges, and personal circumstances) were all published on the State Department of Education website (with only the student’s home address redacted).

Three days later, under pressure from school officials, legislators and the public, SDE redacted the students’ names and test scores.  Dr. Barresi is still defending the publishing of students confidential educational records, saying the Agency was simply complying with Open Meetings Act requirements.  Her quote:

“The record cannot be shielded from the review of the public simply because it is an educational record. The records are educational records, but they are also public records obtained by a public body in the course of official business.”

I believe this to be a deliberate attempt to intimidate those who may wish to appeal for waiver from high-stakes testing requirements for graduation (Oklahoma class of 2012 is the first class who must pass 4/7 EOI’s, or be denied a diploma.)  The appellants each have various extenuating circumstances and all met local graduation requirements.  Some of their stories have been highlighted in local media, see here: Seven Students Denied Diploma Waivers

We will continue this battle in Oklahoma, and look forward to learning from all of you who are steps ahead of us in this fight.  Our group will help in any way we can in Oklahoma.

Best regards to you all,


Melissa Abdo, Parent Coordinator, Tulsa Area Parent Legislative Action Committee  [PLAC]

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