Friday, July 31, 2015

A huge WARNING for parents when making public records request!

Next time you make a public records request (PRR) with the Seattle public schools know this:

Every PRR is recorded in the PRR log and according to Seattle public school's legal department the following rules apply to the PRR log.

The public records log is not an educational record that falls under the protection of FERPA. However, as a courtesy we can redact student names and other identifying information.

We are always looking to improve our practices, so thank you for bringing your concerns and feedback to our attention.  The two current Public Records Officers have both been employed here for less than a year, so we cannot provide detailed information or explanations about past practices. In reviewing past logs, at least five different Public Records Officers have made entries into the past PRR logs, and the standard practices appear to have changed over time.  Although the PRR log is not an educational record as defined and protected by FERPA, we do currently try to remove student identifying information that may be linked to education records from the log. It is possible that student names were overlooked when redactions were applied.

Regarding your question about a non-redacted version of the log: the answer is a bit complicated. As mentioned, the log entries have been made inconsistently over the years. In some cases, student names were entered, and in others initials or the words “redaction” or “FERPA” were entered. As such, no completely non-redacted versions of the logs exist. Because log entries have not been consistent over the years, we are currently reviewing our best practices for creating log entries. Moving forward, we will replace all student names with “student” (and replace other identifying information with generic terms), and we will work to review all past log entries to ensure they are compliant with this new best practice. This should eliminate the need for any redactions of student information to the log in the future. Again, note that this is a District protocol we have established as a courtesy to parents, not a requirement under FERPA.

In reviewing the PRR logs sent to me by SSD created over the past 2 years, I see it's very common for news agencies, bloggers, lawyers and parents to request a copy of the PRR logs. This means your students information could be AT RISK for publication and is not protected. All PRR log entries have a comment section where SSD staff can enter any information they like , including information identifying your student by name, SID or even SSN. You might want to check if your students information has been exposed. 


No comments:

Post a Comment