Sonoma County Office of Education

News

Court order calls for disclosure of student information

02/18/2016 -

Update as of Friday, March 4: It appears that the court, in response to strong protest from the public, has backtracked on its request that the CDE release student information to the plaintiffs in the lawsuit mentioned below. We are still learning the full extent of what this means as far as the disclosure of student information. However, advocates for child privacy are considering this a very positive development. Please check back for additional information.

Additional information for concerned parents wishing to file an objection can be found at the California PTA website.

A federal judge has ordered the California Department of Education (CDE) to disclose personal student information – including documents and data dating back to 2008 – to the plaintiffs who initiated an ongoing lawsuit against the state agency.

The court allows parents or students to file an objection, and the CDE is requesting that Local Educational Agencies (LEAs) post this link with information about the litigation on their websites. Here is some background on the case.

In April 2012, the Morgan Hill Concerned Parents Association and the Concerned Parent Association filed suit against the California Department of Education, alleging non-compliance of special education laws by local educational agencies. The suit alleges the CDE failed to monitor, investigate, and correct the non-compliance in accordance with the law.

The CDE has denied these allegations and says it is actively defending against the litigation. Nevertheless, as part of the discovery process, the state department has been ordered to produce all data collected on general and special students who have attended a California school at any time since Jan. 1, 2008.

The CDE says it contested the release of student information but to no avail. The court has, however, prohibited the plaintiffs and their attorneys from sharing confidential material with anyone outside the case. In other words, no student records are to be disclosed to the public.

You may already know that the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, or FERPA, was designed to protect student privacy, and it generally requires parental consent before an educational agency may disclose personal data. But there are exceptions, including court orders.

Examples of the information stored on CDE’s databases and network drives include names, social security numbers, addresses, demographics data, course information, assessment results and behavior and discipline records.

To comply with FERPA laws, the CDE is required to inform parents and students of the disclosure. To that end, the department is asking school districts and other educational agencies throughout the state to post the following link on their websites: http://www.cde.ca.gov/morganhillcase. The link includes the official notice, as well as an objection form that parents can fill out and mail before April 1. There’s also a number to contact the CDE with additional questions.

The court order allows parents or adult students, present or former, to object directly to the court regarding this disclosure. The link provides a Notice and Objection Form required by FERPA that parents or adult former students can use to object to their own or their child’s information from being among the documents and data released within the lawsuit.

This announcement is based on a press release from the Orange County Department of Education and a notice from School & College Legal Services of California.