Saturday, October 18, 2014

Posting Linked Documents at this Blog

This issue of posting documents at the blog has given rise to a couple of issues that I hope to resolve now.

It is fine to either link to documents from their source and/or if you scan them in and link to a source like Scribd if they are publicly available documents. 

Do not link documents that are not within the public domain.  You can send them to either Charlie or me but please do not put them up here. 

Do NOT put up any document that reveals the name or face of a minor if it is a sensitive matter.  It does not matter your opinion about the need to post; don't do it. 

Do NOT put up any document that reveals personal data like the address of any Seattle Schools' employee or members of the Board.  It does not matter your opinion about the need to post; don't do it. 

If you see that a document has been redacted but the redaction is not complete (meaning, they missed something), do NOT post it here.  It does not matter your opinion about the need to post; don't do it. 

Charlie and I try very hard to read every comment and look at links but yes, we could miss something that has been improperly posted. 

I will put this in our guidelines.  

5 comments:

SPSLeaks said...

I am glad you do not flatly reject any links. I think many of your readers have benefited from the insight that published docs present. If someone has lots of time on their hands they can go through thousands of pages to ensure the PROs did a FERPA compliant job of redaction, or that agencies did a good job of redacting personal information, or that contributors understood their duty.

I know how you feel. I ask people to properly redact their documents. They don't always do a good job. If I'm expected to do that, then I will just stop. The peanut gallery would win.

It's funny because those that harp do little to pull away the curtain of obfuscation. How about they do what's needed to expose the warts of this district? If not then they've helped suppress the truth and I could retire to Tahiti.

When I see the few peanut gallery patrons show their bonafide contribution, I will gladly pass the baton to them. That will greatly improve transparency, no? They know that spsleaks@gmail.com is the best way to get a hold of me (or ask the NSA). I look forward to passing the baton.

Until then I won't. Your informed readers wouldn't know unless they went to www.scribd.com/spsleaks. I am not afraid. Transparency advocates do not fear criticism or snark.

mosfet said...

@Melissa,

Could you please add a note to the guidelines about precisely what information is in the public domain? Perhaps a quick summary of FERPA and relevant disclosure laws/privacy laws in Washington? And a note that the SPS PRO has been known to make some mistakes in the past, so people should read over things before posting?

I am deeply uncomfortable with expecting the public to read through documents from a public records request to check that they're redacted properly, though. In many cases, people don't know exactly what information needs to be redacted. Before this mess with NatureBridge, I myself would have trusted SPS to completely redact the documents before releasing them to the public. I wouldn't have known to check documents before posting them. At the same time, students need and deserve privacy and security.

I sympathize with SPSLeaks. Some of the documents are hundreds of pages long. I read through most of the NatureBridge ones. That took me quite a while and I'm a pretty fast reader. Not everyone has software for redacting documents. But I would ask people to read through documents before posting them, too, even though it is not their responsibility.

Melissa Westbrook said...

"And a note that the SPS PRO has been known to make some mistakes in the past, so people should read over things before posting?"

I said this in my thread. Look, if anyone feels it is that important to post something, they darn well better make sure it is redacted. If not, then do NOT post it. If they don't know what should be redacted, do not post it.

I'm sorry but I cannot be the hall monitor. There is responsibility here and it is not all to me and Charlie. It IS your responsibility. No one is being forced to post documents.

I do not want to see one more time where something is posted that names someone when it should not. If this continues, we will consider not allowing any links to documentation that we do not clear.

FERPA. Well, it does not apply to us. What applies is what you can get via public disclosure. I'll try to write that up.

Reader47 said...

Just to clarify for those in doubt - Washington State's Public disclosure law (see pertinent section below) makes it pretty clear that info that would in anyway identify a child is exempt and should be redacted by the providing entity.

If you receive docs that are improperly redacted you should be responsible and notify the providing agency. Ditto if you see something like that in a linked document - seriously, there's going to be human error now and then - just bring it to someone's attention, and don't assume nefarious intent.

RCW 42.56.230
Personal information.
The following personal information is exempt from public inspection and copying under this chapter:

(1) Personal information in any files maintained for students in public schools, patients or clients of public institutions or public health agencies, or welfare recipients;

(2)(a) Personal information:

(i) For a child enrolled in licensed child care in any files maintained by the department of early learning; or

(ii) For a child enrolled in a public or nonprofit program serving or pertaining to children, adolescents, or students, including but not limited to early learning or child care services, parks and recreation programs, youth development programs, and after-school programs

SPSLeaks said...

Reader47, good points. I have frequently informed various agencies of errors, and try to catch all I can. FERPA applies to educational agencies - the provisions in the PRA to all public agencies in WA that maintain files for children in their care or enrolled.