How my original “Opt Out Letter” was converted to a “form”

At the June 18th BESE meeting John White relayed that he did not recall seeing my opt-out letter and did not reply because it was something he characterized as a “form letter.”  Technically this was true.  Mine was the first letter to get sent, so it was not a form letter, however Tom Aswell at the Louisiana Voice republished it after redacting my personal info so other parents could likewise opt their children out of any data sharing using my letter as a template.  (I subsequently learned there was much swearing of my name by John White, as a result of my letter and privacy petition and campaign, but we must pick and choose our battles, right?)

A form letter type approach was adopted because Louisiana has not provided an organized method of transmitting or submitting opt-out requests and some very specific information needs to be submitted for Louisiana to identify children that are opted out, while not revealing too much information (like DOB and SSN) which could be used by identity thieves that might intercept the e-mail making the opt-out procedure as dangerous as the data sharing.

My son will be starting pre-k this year in EBR so I will be updating my opt-out request in a few weeks with his info.

Feel free to use this letter as a template for your own, or simply write your own and simply make sure to send the bolded data elements.  Since John White did not recall seeing my letter, even thought I sent it to him and most of his senior staff and legal counsel, I would recommend making sure you send it to more folks than just John White.  I asked him to provide a method by which parents could opt-out their children without this hassle, but White did not address any future plans to make this process easy in the meeting.

Feel free to send your opt outs to any or all of:

John.White@la.gov (state Superintendent of Education)

Erin.Bendily@la.gov (Governor Jindal’s handpicked DOE handmaiden )

Joan.Hunt@la.gov (DOE chief legal counsel)

Kim.Nesmith@la.gov (Data Quality and collections director)

My name is (PARENT’S NAME) and I am a parent of children in Louisiana public schools. This is to formally inform you that you do not have my permission to share my children’s personally identifiable student information with any external agency, researcher, non-profit group, vendor or government or quasi-government agency under any circumstances (specifically, name, DOB, SSN). They are public students in the (parish/city/parochial) school system and you have not asked my permission to share their information as required by law. I am purposefully informing you that you do not have permission to share their information unless I provide appropriate parental guidance. Their/his/her name(s) is/are (STUDENT’S OR STUDENTS’ NAME[S]). If you already have, I would like you to promptly request that his/her/their information be expunged from any data set you have already shared.

Mr. White, on the basis of your e-mails it appears you are planning on sharing this data and I will hold you personally responsible for any subsequent violations. I will be recommending that other parents likewise notify you if they do not wish their information to be shared with corporations/vendors whom you have agreed to not hold liable for any security breaches or unauthorized releases (which I don’t believe you have a legal right or authority to do). Moreover, any such release of personally identifiable information without each parent’s express permission will be a direct violation of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) and a willfully unnecessary one since you have non-personally identifiable student identifiers and have taken great pains to claim FERPA exclusions for all other releases of de-identified student data to the media, researchers, and the general public.

Please note the section in the last paragraph below. Schools may disclose, without consent, directory information. But you must notify us when doing so. You, however, do not have my consent and you are not a school. You have my absolute, unequivocal, official refusal on record.

You also do not have a legal right to require social security numbers from any student in Louisiana. I will be recommending parents and school districts to promptly stop providing them as you seem unwilling to guard this information as required by law.

Thank you for your prompt attention to this matter.

(PARENT’S NAME)

Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA)

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) (20 U.S.C. § 1232g; 34 CFR Part 99) is a Federal law that protects the privacy of student education records. The law applies to all schools that receive funds under an applicable program of the U.S. Department of Education.

FERPA gives parents certain rights with respect to their children’s education records. These rights transfer to the student when he or she reaches the age of 18 or attends a school beyond the high school level. Students to whom the rights have transferred are “eligible students.”

• Parents or eligible students have the right to inspect and review the student’s education records maintained by the school. Schools are not required to provide copies of records unless, for reasons such as great distance, it is impossible for parents or eligible students to review the records. Schools may charge a fee for copies.

• Parents or eligible students have the right to request that a school correct records which they believe to be inaccurate or misleading. If the school decides not to amend the record, the parent or eligible student then has the right to a formal hearing. After the hearing, if the school still decides not to amend the record, the parent or eligible student has the right to place a statement with the record setting forth his or her view about the contested information.

• Generally, schools must have written permission from the parent or eligible student in order to release any information from a student’s education record. However, FERPA allows schools to disclose those records, without consent, to the following parties or under the following conditions (34 CFR § 99.31):

o School officials with legitimate educational interest;

o Other schools to which a student is transferring;

o Specified officials for audit or evaluation purposes;

o Appropriate parties in connection with financial aid to a student;

o Organizations conducting certain studies for or on behalf of the school;

o Accrediting organizations;

o To comply with a judicial order or lawfully issued subpoena;

o Appropriate officials in cases of health and safety emergencies; and

o State and local authorities, within a juvenile justice system, pursuant to specific State law.

Schools may disclose, without consent, “directory” information such as a student’s name, address, telephone number, date and place of birth, honors and awards, and dates of attendance. However, schools must tell parents and eligible students about directory information and allow parents and eligible students a reasonable amount of time to request that the school not disclose directory information about them. Schools must notify parents and eligible students annually of their rights under FERPA. The actual means of notification (special letter, inclusion in a PTA bulletin, student handbook, or newspaper article) is left to the discretion of each school.

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4 thoughts on “How my original “Opt Out Letter” was converted to a “form”

  1. I’m happy to see you mentioned directory information specifically. Legislative sessions are ending without any new student privacy laws that I’m aware of. Yes, there have been bills, but nothing signed into law.

    Parents need to know they can OPT-OUT of directory information. Parents are concerned about vendors having their children’s PII. I’m not certain parents are aware directory information (separate from InBloom, Pearson, Amazon) has zero restrictions on use/abuse & that parents have the right under FERPA to protect their children from misuse of directory information. They can OPT-OUT.

    It’s sinful & disgusting that here in NY — lawmakers from NYC Council to NYC DOE to NYSED; the legislature, AG & Executive are aware of the risks of disclosing directory information and have done nothing since I have been talking to them going back to 2006. It’s not just on the state level. I have talked to members of Congress who will only care after a child is harmed. That’s their MO.

    If policy makers can’t figure out why it’s a bad idea to give strangers kids’ contact information with or w out parental consent — they should not be involved with policy making. The only reason there hasn’t been a law restricting directory information is GREED. The data has financial value.

    Shame on NYC DOE, NYSED, NYSSBA, NYSCOSS & the Big 5. Your opposition to parents having a role in protecting children is disgusting. There are more who stand in the way of children’s safety & well-being. You know who you are & so do I.

  2. I have learned a lot from your blog and enjoy your humor in such a depressing situation we find our schools in, well, our country in. I watched Sheila on Youtube with the Moms from Utah who have collected so much info on commoncore and privacy altho I am on the other side of the parking lot from some of their conclusions. I am more afraid of Bill Gates than Leon Trotsky but the common ground is the policy and loss of privacy which is a death sentence for democracy if we do not find a way to fight it. Your information is a great start for parents.

  3. Just watched the LPB Bill Moyers piece on ALEC, then read that BESE is taking money from the 8g fund that is used for PreK education to pay for virtual school/Course Choice programs. The research has clearly shown the benefits from early childhood programs for at risk students, whereas there is NO research to show benefits of virtual courses. It is shameful.

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