State of Oklahoma
House of Representatives
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 7, 2012
Democratic Leader Scott M. Inman
State Capitol Building Rm. 548
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma 73105
Contact: Valorie Owens
Lawmakers Condemn Release of Students’ Educational Records
OKLAHOMA CITY (June 7, 2012) Two lawmakers expressed outrage today over the actions of the State Department of Education, who without regard to the parties involved posted on the state Department of Education website the personal records of each student denied an exemption from testing requirements.
“I am shocked at the degree of callousness displayed by the Education department, who again decided to loosely interpret the law when they broadcasted sensitive information about students on their website,” said Democratic Leader Scott Inman, D-Del City. “These students’ rights were violated when education officials put on the Internet, for any and all to see, their names, dates of birth, test scores and learning disabilities. I seriously question if this action was done in ignorance, or if it was a deliberate attempt to publicly humiliate students who are challenging Superintendent Barresi’s policies.”
Leader Inman noted that educators and attorneys alike have stated that this action violates state and federal educational privacy laws.
In order to submit an appeal for an exemption from testing requirements, students are required to sign a Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act waiver (FERPA). However, that waiver is meant to disclose information to education officials who have a legitimate educational interest or decision-making role in the appeals process. It has never before been interpreted to mean that it allowed the Department of Education to place students’ private information on the Internet.
“We should be able to place our trust in the stewards of education data to ensure students’ personal information is properly safeguarded and is released only for legitimate purposes and only when absolutely necessary,” said Leader Inman. “This is a responsibility not to be taken lightly, and education officials should exercise caution at all times. However, under the direction of Superintendent Janet Barresi, we see a lack of professionalism, competence and common courtesy. I am sorely disappointed that these students, who are earnestly trying to receive their diploma, will suffer as a consequence.”
Leader Inman noted that within the educational records of students, addresses and phone numbers were redacted, but dates of birth of students were poorly reviewed, as in several instances they were blacked out on one form but left exposed on another.
“I am appalled at the actions of the Department of Education, and there should be a consequence for their poor leadership and decision-making skills,” said Rep. Curtis McDaniel, D-Smithville. “These actions reveal their total inability to lead our schools, or to protect and prioritize the needs of students across the state. Not only is this an embarrassment to the Education department, but these privacy breaches could result in federal penalties and fines.”
Rep. McDaniel is a former educator and principal of Smithville High School and holds a Master’s in Administration from Southeastern Oklahoma State University.
“I am calling for the immediate admonishment of Superintendent Janet Barresi and those directly involved in the decision to post sensitive information online,” said Rep. McDaniel. “There should be dire consequences for such dereliction of duty to the students of this state, as these actions can not and should not be allowed to go unchecked. I also call on Governor Mary Fallin to immediately issue an Executive Order demanding a moratorium be placed on this practice until legal experts review the ramifications of violating FERPA.”
“I know that the new testing mandate and the appeals process has been a controversial issue for many, but that in no way justifies throwing our students’ rights and privacy under the bus. As adults and leaders we should rise to a higher standard and not play politics with kids’ lives.”