The protected personal information of students throughout the state is at risk following a lawsuit between a group of parents in Morgan Hill and the California Department of Education.
As per court proceedings, the CDE is required to disclose information that contains “protected personal information of children…who are attending, or who have attended, a California school at any time since January 1, 2008” to the Morgan Hill Concerned Parents Association and Concerned Parents Association, which are not-for-profit associations comprised of parents and guardians of children with disabilities.
This could include name, Social Security number, home address, demographics, course information, statewide assessment results, teacher demographics, program information, behavior and discipline information, progress reports, special education assessment plans, special education assessments/evaluations, Individualized Education Programs, records pertaining to health, mental health and medical information, student statewide identifiers, attendance statistics, information on suspensions and expulsions and results on state tests.
With this information, these parent groups are hoping to prove their allegation that the CDE has violated the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and other related laws “by failing to monitor, investigate, provide services to, and enforce the rights of children with disabilities consistent with its obligations under the law.”
Thankfully for parents and guardians who would prefer not to have the confidential information of their children released to a group of parents, they can object by notifying the Court by April 1 by either completing the “Objection to Disclosure of Student Information and Records Case No. 2:11-CV-03471” and mailing it to the Court or writing a confidential letter to the judge.
Letters or objection forms should be mailed to the Honorable Kimberly J. Mueller c/o Clerk of the Court, U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California, 501 I Street, Room 4-200, Sacramento, CA, 95814.
Failure either to submit an Objection Form or letter to the Court will be “deemed a waiver of your right to object to the disclosure of your or your child’s protected personal information and records.”
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson urged parents, guardians and former students over the age of 18 years old to object to the release of personal information to the Morgan Hill Concerned Parents Association.
Torlakson said that the CDE has and will continue to combat requests by the plaintiffs to produce documents that contain personally identifiable information of students. Just last year, CDE staff provided plaintiffs with all the information from a California Special Education Management Information System database (CASEMIS), which includes records of special education students and those being tested for special needs, but with personally identifiable information removed.
Despite that, plaintiffs continued to seek student information in CDE’s database with personally identifiable information.
“We have fought vigorously to protect students’ privacy rights and will continue that fight,” said Torlakson.
Turlock Unified School District Superintendent Dana Salles Trevethan sent out a letter to families of special education students this week in response to the recent court order.
“The security of confidential student information is a top priority to all of us in the Turlock Unified School District, as is the fair treatment of all students,” wrote Trevethan. “I urge you to read more about this case and to decide for yourselves whether you want to object.”
For more information and to access the objection form, “Objection to Disclosure of Student Information,” visit cde.ca.gov/re/di/ws/morganhillcase.asp.