In what can only be termed "disgraceful," Tewksbury Public Schools accidentally released private student info about the out-of-district placements for 83 Special Ed students and rated parents by their "cooperativeness." The document had been online for almost a week. From the Tewksbury Town Crier:
In December the district blamed a projected $2 million shortfall for
FY2016 on ‘skyrocketing’ out of district costs, and said that it could
not implement a proposed free full-day kindergarten program as a result.
That action generated distrust and backlash by the special education
community, and this most recent release of data has parents ready to
file complaints at the state and federal levels.
The seven-page memo from Rick Pelletier, Director of Student Services,
to the Superintendent was included in the School Committee packet as
part of its budget justification package last week. The memo includes a
spreadsheet that listed all the students with out of district placements
– and also included a ranking on ‘parental cooperativeness.’ The amount
of data included could indicate a violation of state and federal law.
The office of Student Services also published its rating of parents
according to their ‘cooperativeness with the district.’ Parents rated a
‘1’ are cooperative, ‘2’ somewhat cooperative, and those rated ‘3’ are
The newspaper itself said they could "easily identify" at least seven families in the list with readers contacting them saying they, too, could figure out who students were in the document.
The district, the state and the feds all had different levels of reaction. (Interestingly, Massachusett's law is stronger than FERPA - good for them.)
That same spokesman told the Town Crier that if the information was
publicly disclosed and a parent believes that the disclosure of this
information is personally identifiable to their child, they may file a
complaint with the Family Policy Compliance Office for consideration.
Big whoop. There have been virtually NO complaints that to the DOE on FERPA that have resulted in real punishment. That's why FERPA - a nearly 40-year old law needs revamping, stat.
“What is the purpose for such a list? There are more appropriate ways to
provide financial information and isn’t it bad enough that families in
town blame us and our kids for the fact that there is no full day
Kindergarten this year?
“I am not only upset that my child has been identified in such a crude
and public manner but that I have been classified as an uncooperative
parent. I guess if you do what is right for your child than you are
”When I last attended a school committee meeting to voice my anger at
statements made by our superintendent, I was chastised by Brian Dick,
Chair of the school committee, who said he found my “comments
offensive." I would like to know if our school committee, in particular
Brian Dick, finds the cooperativeness rating and subsequent public
release of that document offensive? And what are they going to do about
the widening gap between parents and the district?”
That last comment could apply to our district. There seems to be a growing disconnect between the concerns of parents - across the board - and how the district is run.
Again - student data privacy is under attack, from within and without. Things have got to change.