Letter to Corbin White and Jordan School District: On FERPA revisions   Leave a comment

Dear Corbin White and Jordan School District,


It was good to meet you at the U.S.O.E. forum on Common Core yesterday. Although we testified on opposite sides of this issue, I think there is nothing to contend about.  We all want great school standards.  We all want political and parental freedom.


I’m writing as I said I would, requesting that you review and verify the information I’m sending, and that you share it with the other members of Jordan School Board and other Utah school boards or citizens if you feel it is appropriate.


Thursday night at the Wasatch School Board meeting, my local school board revised FERPA to overrride parental consent law in favor of the federal government and educational research groups having direct access to student data.


Parents did not want and were not informed of this.  Teachers and parents were not allowed to speak, but mouthed “please no,” and the board responded, “We can’t not pass this. It’s a federal law.” I do not know who sent our school board the directive to revise FERPA.  (If you have received such a directive,  I request that you share who sent it to your board.)


Without public input, without actually having researched federal and state FERPA laws and Utah’s SB287, and declining 30-day review, the Wasatch Board passed the revision. 


This FERPA revision is wrong for 5 reasons:


1.  Parental authority trumps federal authority over children’s privacy based on state FERPA laws.

2.  The board’s own bylaws demand that the board must “work closely with the public” especially on major policy changes.

3. State FERPA laws are in direct conflict with recent revisions to federal FERPA regulations, altered illegally by the executive branch (not by congress).

Only Congress is authorized to make changes to federal FERPA.  And if congress at some future time truly did elect to revise FERPA, to take away parental authority over student data, as the executive branch has attempted to do, in any constitutional conflict, states hold power over educational issues. (Also true under G.E.P.A. law).

4. School districts may face lawsuits from parents who learn what has been done to their parental authority, based both on state FERPA laws and on Utah’s SB287.

5. Data collection has changed; schools used to collect aggregated academic scores for legitimate educational reasons.  It’s all different now.


Now schools/states are being asked to collect personal information along with academic information, including (according to the National Data Collection Model) unique identifiers including names, nicknames, residences, immunization history, family income, extracurricular programs, city of birth, email address, bus stop times, parental marital status and parental educational levels, to name a few. You can view the National Data Collection Model database attributes (data categories) at http://nces.sifinfo.org/datamodel/eiebrowser/techview.aspx?instance=studentPostsecondary


When parents and teachers met with our Wasatch Superintendent yesterday, he agreed to share these things with the rest of the Wasatch school board. We anticipate that the board will agree to overturn Thursday night’s ruling and will begin a serious review of issues, as other school boards, congressmen, and the public, are doing.


Still, simply clarifying laws against federal intrusion is not enough. I feel Utah must create technological independence as a guarantee against losing local control of personal data.


Utah has already created technological interoperability that makes it easy for the federal arm to encroach on individuals’ privacy in the guise of educational and medical data collection.


A longitudinal database was made in 2009 in Utah, created from a federal $9.6 million ARRA stimulus grant Utah accepted in exchange for making “systems that promote the linking of data across time and databases from early childhood” –including childhood through post-secondary and workforce data collection– to “promote interoperability for easy matching and linking of data across institutions and States.”   http://nces.ed.gov/programs/slds/pdf/fy09arra_fedregister.pdf


The buck can stop right here.


The federal push for personal and academic data collection and loss of parental and state control, crouching under the good educational improvements of the Common Core Initiative, has gone too far.  Parents and local school boards must stand up and say no to the federal educational data collection.


There is no need for contention or fighting about any of this.


Districts who love Common Core improvements will be able to continue using these improvements because Common Core standards are in the public domain.  Cutting ties with the data collection push and the federal attempt to override parental rights has nothing at odds with raising Utah’s educational standards. When Utah stands up for her constitutional rights –whether it’s refusing to implement illegal requests by the executive branch, or whether it’s cutting ties with Common Core– we do not have to cut ties with high standards nor negate all the hard work that boards and teachers have done this year. 






Christel Swasey

Heber City

Teacher and Parent








1.  From Utah’s SB287:




    53                (6) The state may exit any agreement, contract, memorandum        of understanding, or                     54            consortium that cedes control of Utah’s core curriculum        standards to any other entity, including                     55            a federal agency or consortium, for any reason, including:                     56                (a) the cost of developing or implementing core curriculum        standards;                     57                (b) the proposed core curriculum standards are        inconsistent with community values; or

                    58                (c) the agreement, contract, memorandum of understanding,        or consortium:                     59                (i) was entered into in violation of Part 9, Implementing        Federal Programs Act, or Title                     60            63J, Chapter 5, Federal Funds Procedures Act;                     61                (ii) conflicts with Utah law;                     62                (iii) requires Utah student data to be included in a          national or multi-state database;                     63                (iv) requires records of teacher performance to be        included in a national or multi-state                     64            database; or                     65                (v) imposes curriculum, assessment, or data tracking        requirements on home school or                     66            private school students.                     67                (7) The State Board of Education shall annually report to        the Education Interim                     68            Committee on the development and implementation of core        curriculum standards.


2. From Utah’s FERPA law:


There are two portions to Utah’s law


http://le.utah.gov/~code/TITLE53A/htm/53A13_030100.htm  – this one was amended last fall




3.  Federal FERPA:




4.  Utah’s Federally Promoted Longitudinal Database:


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