Op-Ed: School districts and FERPA are eroding parental authority

OPINION-EDITORIAL – Dear Editor:  Few people know what has been happening to parental authority over children and their data.

In January, without Congressional approval, federal regulations of FERPA (The Family Education Right Privacy Act) were altered to loosen parental consent rules, providing “more flexibility” for outside entities to get student data. See Fox Rothschild,LLC, Attorneys’ Education Practice Alert – FERPA Regulations Revised.

Last month, Wasatch District School Board coincidentally created similar flexibility for external agencies to get local data, where families had had protections before.

The data-seeking network is growing: our state built a longitudinal database with federal stimulus money; the Utah Educator Network partnered with the Data Alliance and Choice Solutions to build  “seamless” sharing of data, both statewide and for entities outside Utah.  Meanwhile, the federal government started asking for previously state-analyzed, aggregated academic data. See the Cooperative Agreement between U.S. Department of Education and Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium and the State of Washington (fiscal agent), dated January 7, 2011, here.

The federal government is setting up technological and legal abilities to get dis-aggregated academic data, plus truckloads of far-from-academic data, about individuals and their families: living arrangements, biometric information, medical information, mental health, family income, bus stop times, nicknames, everything! See the Institute of Education Sciences article, About the National Education Data Model.

Utah is meeting all elements of the federal data campaign in its longitudinal database, and Utah permits a P-20W workforce to track children (from preschool to age 20) making data available for any group calling itself a “stakeholder” of children: See the Future Ready Project’s article, Who Benefits from P-20.

Family privacy laws should never be changed to accomodate parentally un-authorized “stakeholders” who want data without having to ask parents.

If this is important to you, write to our schools, local and state school boards, and our governor.


Submitted by:  Christel Swasey

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