Wasatch County School Board on KTMP Radio speaking about FERPA revisions   Leave a comment


You can listen to archives from the Impact Show with Bob Wren and Paul Royall on KTMP 1340 AM by clicking and making an account (free) and downloading (free).

I’ve been listening to Thursday’s show, where half of the Wasatch School Board made a guest appearance with Bob and Paul.  I’ve also been listening to Monday and Tuesday’s shows with “Three Moms” (Alisa, Renee and I) making guest appearances on the show.

We’ve all been talking about FERPA revisions.  Family Education Rights Privacy Act revisions.  Don’t tune out because the title’s long.


As parents, we should treasure FERPA, which has existed since the 1970s to protect family and student privacy.  Now that the United States executive branch, meaning Arne Duncan of the Department of Education, has illegally (without Congressional or Constitutional approval) revised federal FERPA, suddenly our local district –for some unknown reason– is doing the same thing.  Why, Wasatch School District?

Four local moms met with the Superintendent and told him that the board had made a major policy change without working ‘closely with the public’ as their bylaws state that they must.  So they gave us a thirty day public comment period that ends June 14.

So far, nine people have written to make a public comment, according to what the Board said on the radio on Thursday.  Nine people are alarmed that our district is attempting to give away parental consent over children’s personally identifiable data for the benefit and empowerment of the federal surveillance club.  Where is everyone else?

Many more might voice their opinions if the district would have sent out an email, a newsletter or a robocall (as they do for pajama day, teacher appreciation day, grandparents’ day, and football games).  You would think this might matter, too.

If you read this, even if it’s past the June 14th deadline, please do write to our school board and let them know how we feel about the importance of parental consent being more important than federal ease of access without parental consent to our children’s personally identifiable data.

What to say:  Keep it simple:   No matter how well intentioned, no one may have access to my children’s personally identifiable information without my consent! 

This is a no brainer for me.

Yet, some local and federal representatives have said that these FERPA policy changes provide further protections to the data.  Impossible.  Read them for yourself.  http://www2.ed.gov/policy/gen/guid/fpco/pdf/ferparegs.pdf

Changes made by the federal, executive branch (without Congressional approval) and changes made to local district policy by our Wasatch School Board added additional parties that could have access to  child’s data without parental consent.  There are nine exceptions when someone without parental consent can access a child’s personal, and not just the aggregated, data.

So when the board says these revisions strengthen data privacy, they are not telling the truth!

Vicci Gappmayer at the District Office said that the board had to make these changes to our local policy to be in compliance with federal law, and that “State law trumps local policy and federal law trumps State.”  She did not explain where she found these laws.  Nor did she explain why her superior, State Superintendent Larry Shumway, said that districts are not required to change FERPA policy and they should proceed with caution if at all.  Did she not hear Mr. Shumway?  Did she disagree with him, and if so, why?

If her statement was true, and the U.S. education system is just a top down control, rather than a system of checks and balances that is equal on the local and on the federal level, then why do we still even need a local school board?

In the words of one smart dad I know who lives here in Heber, “If we are solely to be governed by the Ultimate Federal Law, we should just fire Terry and the board and let the federal government run our local schools. Oh wait, they already do.  We are wasting hundreds of thousands of dollars by having an ineffective local board that is too afraid to stand up for the rights of parents and children in Wasatch County.”

In the past, schools released group data, called aggregated data, such as “Third graders averaged 79 percent on the reading test.”  Now schools are being asked to release dis-aggregated data, such as “Maria Jones got 79 percent on the reading test.” Worse, they’re being asked to release nonacademic data, such as “Maria Jones has ADHD, missed 7 days of school last year, has no father, speaks Tagalog, does not ride the school bus, has a history of behavior problems, is nicknamed Mimi, and her mother earns $100,000 per year.”

I heard one of our board members say that he takes privacy very seriously and would never release personally identifiable information.  If that is true, why not make it district policy?  Why have the policy say the feds can come in and read our test scores with individual names and other records attached, while our district would not actually do that?  Why not write it in black and white?  The school board makes no sense at all.  They are either naiive or dishonest.  I am honestly not sure which.  My father used to say it makes no difference if someone is a pawn or a knave; the consequences of their errors will be the same.

Furthermore, biometric data (iris reading, fingerprinting, DNA) is also being used to identify students. Look at page 4 of the new federal FERPA regulations:   http://www2.ed.gov/policy/gen/guid/fpco/pdf/ferparegs.pdf  It says:

(Authority: 20 U.S.C. 1232g) “Biometric record,” as used in the definition of “personally identifiable information,” means a record of one or more measurable biological or behavioral characteristics that can be used for automated recognition of an individual. Examples include fingerprints; retina and iris patterns; voiceprints; DNA sequence; facial characteristics; and handwriting.

Look at the NCES website, the research arm for data collection for the executive branch: http://nces.ed.gov/forum/datamodel/eiebrowser/datasets.aspx?class=StudentTracking .  It says:

Why do we need a National Education Data Model?

A lot of data is already being collected and used, but not everyone collects the same information. This often keeps databases from “talking” to each other and prevents key stakeholders from answering important questions about students and schools. 

So there is an assumption: the diversity that exists from state to state and district to district is a problem for the feds (the NCES) that keeps states and districts from answering THE FEDS’ questions, but why should we even be asked those questions?  Are they our dictators?  Our parents?  No.

What if we have no intention of answering those “important questions about students and schools”?  Yes, I am talking to you,  Arne Duncan and Barack Obama.  What right do you have to be asking question one?  Show me in the Constitution where you found that one or get out of my business.

Wasatch District’s FERPA policy should be written this way:

“Wasatch District Schools will never release personally identifiable information without parental consent”.   That is the right thing to do.


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