Monday, February 18, 2008

Protecting Student Privacy

Dear Parents,

Occasionally, HPISD administrators and staff members receive inquiries from parents and other members of the public seeking information about students who have gotten into trouble at school. Some say they need the information because they want to be sure their children are associating with the right peers. Others say the rumor mill is churning, and they want to be able to help set the record straight. Others offer help and professional services. Still others just want to know what happened.

The bottom line for us as educators is that we must protect each student’s right to privacy. That means that we cannot discuss student discipline matters, period. There are myriad reasons, both ethical and legal, for this restriction. First, it is simply the right thing to do for children. When parents put their child in our care, they trust us not only to provide an excellent education for the child, but also to provide a safe learning environment. Realistically, some of the 6,300 children in HPISD are going to make mistakes from time to time. When they do, it is our responsibility to act decisively and confidentially. Decisions regarding consequences are made in accordance with the student Code of Conduct. When a situation is serious enough to necessitate the involvement of law enforcement officials, we cooperate fully with police to provide the information they need to take appropriate action.

Second, there are strict laws protecting student privacy. Those laws begin at the federal level with FERPA (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974) and are reinforced by Texas law (Public Information Act) and local HPISD policy. There are serious consequences for educators who violate these laws and policies.

We in Highland Park ISD are committed to respecting the ethical and legal guidelines and laws that protect our students’ right to privacy. We ask you as parents and community members to join us in this commitment.

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