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CSBA has developed a sample announcement that districts can customize for posting or sharing. Download this as a PDF or Word document.

Important update and guidance for LEAs regarding privacy of student data 

In light of a recent court order that could result in the release by the California Department of Education (CDE) of up to 10 million student records to attorneys for a parent advocacy group, the California School Boards Association reaffirms its commitment to student privacy, its willingness to help families protect sensitive student information, and its intent to clarify some of the confusion surrounding this development.

In February, a U.S. District Court judge ruled that, in order to determine whether California school districts are providing appropriate special education services, student records maintained by the CDE must be released to plaintiff’s attorneys in the case of Morgan Hill Concerned Parents Association v. California Department of Education. The Court has appointed a special master to assist with the discovery process and ensure confidentiality, but the records being disclosed may contain personally identifiable student information such as social security numbers. Affected parties include all of the following:

  1. Parents and guardians of a child with disabilities

  2. Parents and guardians of a student who is attending or attended a California school at any time since January 1, 2008

  3. Anyone over the age of 18 who is currently attending a California school or attended a California school since January 1, 2008

Process for parents or students to object to disclosure

Those who object to disclosing this data can request an exemption using the form “Objection to Disclosure of Student Information and Records Case No. 2:11-CV-03471,” found at the CDE website under Objections to Disclosure of Student Records. As an alternative, a parent, guardian, or former student can write a confidential letter to the presiding judge including the name of the student on whose behalf the letter is written, the author's name and relationship to the student, the student's date of birth, county, school district, and school, and, if desired, the basis of the objection.
Both letters and 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.
Objections must be received by the court by April 1, 2016.

LEAs should publicize the option for parents to object

CSBA recommends that all local education agencies promptly and widely publicize that constituents can request an exemption from the data disclosure requirements. This information, including the relevant forms, should be made available in multiple languages (where applicable), posted on the organization’s website and advertised through various means (e.g. email blasts, fliers, autodialer messages, etc.) CSBA has developed a sample announcement that districts can customize for posting or sharing.

Important details

Furthermore, it is important to note that, contrary to what has been reported in some media outlets:

  1. Unlike an opt-out, filing the objection to disclosure form does not guarantee the request will be granted. However, since the parties agreed to the e-discovery protocol and to the form itself, this suggests that objections filed by parents, guardians, and former students would be honored.
  2. Student information may or may not be destroyed at the end of the case. The plan adopted by the court states that the plaintiffs shall undertake to destroy or securely store the student information with a third party once the case is concluded. Although the plaintiffs have stated they will destroy the records at that time, they are not presently legally required to do so.

The notice of disclosure issued by the United States District Court for the Eastern District of California, resulted from a 2012 lawsuit filed by the Morgan Hill Concerned Parents Association against the CDE. The suit alleged that local education agencies were systemically non-compliant with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, and that CDE failed to monitor and rectify the non-compliance. CDE denies these allegations.

CSBA will keep its members and the public updated on developments in this matter, including the possibility of legislation or litigation to address the disclosure of student information and ways in which families can safeguard information pertaining to their students.