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Federal court orders state to release confidential student information

Parents can ask to opt their children out of the release

Parents in school districts around the state recently received notice that confidential information on their students maintained by the California Department of Education is about to be released as part of a federal lawsuit.

The release includes information on any child who attended public schools in California after Jan. 1, 2008, and is estimated to apply to as many as 10 million students. The court order calling for the release of the information promises that it will not be released "to anyone other than the parties (to the lawsuit), their attorneys and consultants, and the Court," and will be returned or destroyed when the lawsuit is concluded.

The "Notice of Disclosure of Student Information" from federal Judge Kimberly J. Mueller says that types of information stored on the Department of Education's databases and network drives include "name, Social Security number, home address, demographics, course information, statewide assessment results, teacher demographics, program information, behavior and discipline information, progress reports, special education assessment plans, special education assessments/evaluations, Individualized Education Programs (IEPs), records pertaining to health, mental health and medical information, student statewide identifiers (SSID), attendance statistics, information on suspensions and expulsions, and results on state tests."

The lawsuit was filed in federal court in April 2012 by two organizations, the Morgan Hill Concerned Parents Association and the California Concerned Parents Association, which represent parents of children with disabilities.

The suit claims the California Department of Education is depriving some students with disabilities of their rights to a free and appropriate public education, as required by federal law.

Parents who do not want their students' information divulged, or former students who are over 18, can either fill out a form found on the Department of Education's website or send a letter to Judge Mueller by April 1. The objections themselves will also not be made public.

The order does not say what will happen after the requests are filed, but it does indicate that not submitting a request will be "deemed a waiver of your right to object to the disclosure of your or your child's protected personal information and records."

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson said in a press release on Feb. 17 that the Department of Education has for nearly three years "fought requests by the plaintiffs to produce documents that contain the personally identifiable information of students and has produced documents with that information removed."

But the Concerned Parents Association, on its website, said it has worked for two years with the Department of Education to provide "these materials in an anonymized form" but that the department "persistently declined."

The parents' association says that the data release will be overseen by an expert in cybersecurity and data breach prevention to make sure it is secure.

Comments

5 people like this
Posted by Steve
a resident of Stoneridge
on Feb 25, 2016 at 12:28 pm

I submitted the form. However, I'm sure that the job of filtering out students will be delegated to a clerk of the court who will hire a group to filter the records. During the filtering, the records will be stored on a separate computer server, personal computers or thumb drives. In the end, most of the data will be destroyed at the end of the filtering process, but I'm sure that someone will retain it.

So I have included the following statement in the Objection:

I object to any disclosure of my child's protected information. I do not give permission to download this information to any secondary device, to include, but not limited to, a separate server, personal computer, cell phone, tablet, or USB memory stick either owned by the government or plaintiff in the aforementioned case.


Like this comment
Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger
a resident of Vintage Hills
on Feb 25, 2016 at 4:06 pm

Kathleen Ruegsegger is a registered user.

Thanks for that very good suggestion. I am wondering why they need all the information they request about a child on the form in the first place. Parent, county, district, done.


1 person likes this
Posted by Anon E. Mouse
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 26, 2016 at 8:23 am

Poor reporting to the contrary, there is nothing in the Court Order that states that parents have the ability to "opt-out" of anything. You can file an objection. The judge, and only the judge, gets to decide what to do with that objection. I'm confident that the tens (hundreds?) of thousands of objections that are filed will be opened, scanned into the court's document management system, and then never seen again. Your kids' data are going to be turned over.

If they really intended to filter the data, they'd request information that would be useful in making a 100% match against student records, like student ID #. (Kathleen, there's more than one "John Smith" attending PUSD). And they'd collect the objection electronically. The fact that they're collecting these on paper is as sure a sign as anything that they don't intend to act on the objections.

If somebody has something *from the court* that states something to the contrary, I'd love to see it; just tired of seeing the "opt-out" message promulgated by those that won't bother to read what is actually written by the court.


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Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger
a resident of Vintage Hills
on Feb 26, 2016 at 11:13 am

Kathleen Ruegsegger is a registered user.

We benefit from a unique name. Essentially, I am wondering how not to provide information about any child. Maybe each district can indicate all their families have opted out. :o)


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