Wasatch School Board’s Meaningless New FERPA Policy Out for 30-Day Review   Leave a comment

Dear Citizens of Heber Valley,  Please direct comments about FERPA and the importance of family privacy protection to the Wasatch School Board and District Officials at: “JAMES JUDD” <james.judd@wasatch.edu>, “VICCI GAPPMAYER” <vicci.gappmayer@wasatch.edu>, “TERRY SHOEMAKER” <terry.shoemaker@wasatch.edu>, “ANN HORNER” <ann.horner@wasatch.edu>, “DEBBIE JONES” <debbie.jones@wasatch.edu>, “WILMA COWLEY” <wilma.cowley@wasatch.edu>, “BLAIK BAIRD” <blaik.baird@wasatch.edu>, keith.johansen@wasatch.edu.

Here’s the public comment I submitted today:

Dear Wasatch School District,

Very few citizens will contact you during this 30-day period of public comment on the new, short, FERPA policy. Why? Last month, the board received many, many letters, but apparently, Vicci Gappmayer led the board to ignore us all and to do the exact opposite of what people had asked the board to do, which was to strengthen parental authority over children’s personally identifiable data.

Ms. Gappmayer said publically that she felt offended by the flier that citizens, including me, helped to put out, and she called it sensational and misleading.  It was not sensational or misleading. It was entirely truthful and accurate and was based on parental care for children’s privacy.

The district could have avoided a flier even needing to be published if it had not refused the request, unreasonably, to simply send out a districtwide email or newsletter or robocall, informing the public of the public comment opportunity.

Ms. Gappmayer’s new, dramatic rewrite of the district FERPA policy deleted all mention of parental consent or of personally identifiable information and can be seen as a deliberate attack on those parents and citizens who sent out the flier.  This is unfortunate.

Regardless of anyone’s personal feelings, this district deserves a meaningful FERPA policy. The new district policy is so vague and short that it amounts to no meaningful policy nor protection.

The board should not let go of its right to have a meaningful district policy.  The district should have a strong, meaningful policy that offers protection beyond minimal requirements.

Please understand the importance of having a strong district policy.  Being “obedient to law” is not as simple as it may appear. Our local role is not as simple as being obedient, as a child is obedient to parents, because in this case, the parents (state FERPA v. federal FERPA) are fighting, and one of the parents (federal) is schizophrenic about whether FERPA will loosen or strengthen federal access to personally identifiable data.

Having a state school board and a local school board provides checks and balances on the federal Dept. of Education dictating all policy.

The fact that the executive branch did not run their FERPA changes by Congress for approval, this January, sheds doubt on the legality of the federal FERPA regulations that this district is so eager to obey.  The fact that Larry Shumway said not to change your FERPA to avoid getting sued, should have been a consideration.  The Wasatch board disobeyed the State Superintendent in writing this new, short FERPA.

We collectively have allowed the feds to become almost an educational dictatorship.  So we are truly in a complex time. But that doesn’t mean we have to treat the Dept. of Education as if they really hold the right that they’ve assumed, to dictate every step that we, as a school district, make.  We need to be smarter than that.

Having a vague, short, unprotective policy can have terrible repercussions for this community. Think of what could happen if we didn’t have a strong and meaningful FERPA policy.  If the Department of Education were to change FERPA regulations again, without congressional approval, again, as they did in January– and this time, they wrote, “Regardless of parental consent, all children will have their fingerprints, photographs and blood samples sent to a D.C. database and have their hands microchipped, to ensure accountability and efficient access for educational testing,” this district’s new, short, policy would enforce it. No parent would be asked for permission. 

I do not agree with the lawyer who said that each of the FERPA policies we have looked at in the past few months, were just fine.  That lawyer does not care about our children like we do.  He is here as a paid employee to give legal advice, but his heart is not in it, as mine is and as (I hope) yours are.  He was wrong when he said any of the policies are fine.  Maybe legally they were all fine, but morally they were not.  There were different levels of parental involvement and consent.  There were different levels of federal ease of access to local data and to personally identifiable data.  He was looking only on the surface.  I am more concerned than he was, and so I am asking you to rewrite this FERPA policy to reflect that care.

This district should take a stand and determine for itself what its standards will be as far as it can discern and assert its right to do so.

Please add this sentence to the policy:  Wasatch District will never release personally identifiable information to any organization outside the Wasatch District without signed parental consent except in an emergency.

Thank you.

Christel Swasey

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