FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 15, 2012
Contact: Melissa Abdo, 918.671.5656, firstname.lastname@example.org
Student education records remain identifiable on Oklahoma state website.
Oklahoma parents remain outraged by the disregard for student privacy and
ask that records be removed from the state education agency’s website immediately.
Tulsa, OK– More than a week after 25 students’ private educational records were posted on the Oklahoma State Department of Education website, parents are still waiting for those records to be removed from the Oklahoma State Department of Education website. The records are those of students who submitted an appeal to waive the high-stakes graduation testing requirements which took effect in Oklahoma this year. After initial outcries and questions by the State Board of Education members, a department spokesman said corrective action would be taken.
“The student names have only been partially redacted, leaving the first and last initials. This does not go far enough to protect student identity.” says Melissa Abdo, coordinator of Parent Legislative Action Committee. “Many parents are stunned this could happen. Parents must be able to trust state officials to protect the privacy and dignity of our children.”
In addition to the student’s academic transcripts, test scores and remediation attempts, the appellants submit documentation of extenuating circumstances. Letters from school officials detailing IEP’s, learning challenges, and individual personal circumstances were also published, and remain identifiable by student initials and school name.
The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (FERPA) is the federal law which protects student privacy. To appeal Oklahoma’s graduation testing requirements, students aged 18 and parents of minor students, must sign a FERPA waiver. The waiver grants permission for educational records to be discussed by state officials at a meeting that “may be open to the public”. At a June 5, 2012 board meeting the Oklahoma State Board of Education deliberated the student appeals in executive session causing many to question why the records were subsequently posted online.
State Superintendent Janet Barresi has defended the action, saying the appellants signed the FERPA waiver, and her agency must comply with Open Meetings Act requirements. That defense is not resonating with many parents. “It is a big leap to assume permission to ‘discuss records at a meeting which may be open to the public’ is the same as permission to post those records online”, says Abdo.
Through an open records request, local media obtained copies of emails sent by State Board of Education members to Superintendent Barresi expressing similar concerns. “If the board members did not realize these confidential records would be posted online, why would we expect the students or parents would have made that assumption?” says Abdo. “The only thing State Department of Education should make public right now is an apology to those students.”
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If you would like more information on this story please contact: Melissa Abdo at 918/671.5656 or TulsaAreaPLAC@yahoo.com