Dissent

Jun 242018
 
 June 24, 2018  Posted by  Featured News, Surveillance, U.S., Youth & Schools

Bethany  Barnes has a long piece in The Oregonian that begins:

The worried father understood that when school officials said they were putting his teenager through a threat assessment, what they meant was “We think the next school shooter could be your son.”

Like almost every parent who sends a child to a school in America these days, Mark feared the next school shooting. He wanted to believe the school’s threat assessment system would help make sure Portland wasn’t the next Parkland.

So when a police officer came to his home without a warrant, Mark welcomed him inside. He handed over the family guns despite having no legal obligation to do so.

He told his nerdy, logical 16-year-old to be patient and remember what Spock from Star Trek always said: “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.”

As I read it, I became more and more disturbed by what the school was not revealing to the family. If FERPA is supposed to enable parents to inspect their child’s education records, why could these parents not find out more than the meager bits they had been told?  Was it because these records had been called/tagged something other than education records? Isn’t a “threat assessment” actually a psychological/psychiatric/social work assessment conducted by school personnel or others designated as school officials for purposes of the assessment?  Or are these somehow law enforcement records that are exempt from FERPA-mandated disclosure?

And how could it be that this whole months-long assessment could be triggered by something that the parents are not even allowed to see? As Barnes reports, if all the school had was one or two emails from people in the community, what if the catalyst for all this was simply bad information?

Mark had read, several times over, the email from the school district’s student services director, Michelle Markle, outlining what the school district was willing to say:

“We won’t share the actual email from the concerned parent with you. However, I can tell you the content mainly had to do with these two things:

-dress/attire/appearance

– fascination, obsession with guns, knives, etc.”

So did the district assess the source of the information to determine whether they might have any grudge against the student and/or wish to cause trouble for the student?  If all they had was an email (singular) from a “concerned parent,” how can that possibly be enough to justify such a lengthy and intensive invasion of the family’s and student’s privacy? Look at just some of what the student had to consent to to stay in school:

[The student] had to agree to be randomly searched at any time. He would also be under something called discreet supervision and need to check in and out with someone at the school each day.

Also, he couldn’t bring his [left-handed] scissors to school anymore.

A lot of the school’s distrust of the student seems to stem from two facts:  (1) he liked to wear a heavy black coat that his family had given him, even when it was warm out, and (2) he is on the autism spectrum, and has the quirkiness and obsessive-compulsiveness often observed in youth and adults who have symptoms of ASD.  It seemed to his father

that this system risked making a student who wasn’t violent, violent. What if this system created the very thing it was trying to prevent?

Exactly.

And I won’t tell you how this chapter of the student’s life ends. Read the whole news story. It’s long, but by the end of it, you  will know who started the problems for the student, and how it all impacted the student and his family.

This is a tragedy born of schools understandably wanting to identify potential threats so as to keep the school community safe, but then not showing any sense of proportion or understanding of autism or kids who are a bit different.

It’s enough to make you cry.

I do not know if a sharp education lawyer could have helped this family fight what happened to their son. In today’s environment, I have little faith in the system. But it needs to be fought.  Where was everyone else while this was going on? Why didn’t neighbors and teachers and the student’s friends stand up and say, “Whoa, you’re off base!” ?

What happened to this student is the exact opposite of what you hope schools will do with students with disabilities.  And where is the consequence for the district? There will be none. We’d hear “qualified immunity,” I bet.

But it’s just all so very wrong.

Read the whole news story.

Jun 242018
 
 June 24, 2018  Posted by  Non-U.S.

Moa Petersén writes:

Thousands of people in Sweden have inserted microchips, which can function as contactless credit cards, key cards and even rail cards, into their bodies. Once the chip is underneath your skin, there is no longer any need to worry about misplacing a card or carrying a heavy wallet. But for many people, the idea of carrying a microchip in their body feels more dystopian than practical.

Some have suggested that Sweden’s strong welfare state may be the cause of this recent trend. But actually, the factors behind why roughly 3,500 Swedes have had microchips implanted in them are more complex than you might expect. This phenomenon reflects Sweden’s unique biohacking scene. If you look underneath the surface, Sweden’s love affair with all things digital goes much deeper than these microchips.

Read more on The Conversation.

Jun 232018
 
 June 23, 2018  Posted by  U.S., Youth & Schools

I’m not sure what is going to happen with all of the children who have been ripped from their families or who have been put in concentration camps if they crossed the border without any adult accompanying them. If any of my readers wind up fostering children at any point, I thought it might be helpful to link to an article by Shaun Salmon on how FERPA, the federal law dealing with the privacy of education records and disclosure, applies to foster situations. Some of the following apply to the rights of the biological or legal parents; other points apply to the rights of the foster parents.

Salmon provides 10 things to know:

  1. A biological or legal parent does not automatically lose rights under FERPA when a child is placed in foster care; a mother or father may ask to see a copy of a child’s records for a variety of reasons.
  2. Parents of children placed in foster care might even ask that a child’s records be amended if there are inaccuracies or other issues that need to be addressed.
  3. The right to access a child’s education records after a child has been placed in foster care is not absolute.  If a child was abused by a parent, for example, that child’s location may need to remain undisclosed. FERPA rights may be limited or even denied to keep the child safe.
  4. There are strict requirements to meet before a school can release education records; a school cannot release them simply because a parent or child welfare representative requests it.
  5. The party requesting a child’s education records must provide written and informed consent to access these records.
  6. Furthermore, records may only be released to government or similar agencies via court order.  That said, schools may generally release records freely to the Department of Education or for reasons related to a student’s application for or receipt of financial aid.
  7. In some cases, it may be possible to send records to another school if a child is moving to that school or wants to continue his or her education there in the future.  This type of transfer must be directly from one school district to the other.
  8. Emergencies are also considered special circumstances; schools generally have the right to release records if a child is experiencing a health crisis or is otherwise in an emergency situation.
  9. Regardless of the reason, parents must generally be notified of any release to give them an opportunity to challenge it.  (This may not apply if FERPA rights have been limited for child safety reasons, as noted above).
  10. If a parent’s rights to a child are terminated, there is no longer any right to access a child’s records under FERPA, regardless of whether these rights were terminated by a court order or voluntarily by the parent.

Of course, if you read the above and think of the current situation where our government doesn’t seem to know where a child’s parents are – or even who they are – then it’s not clear how some of this will play out if a foster parent attempts to get records from a school. I would hope that schools would have a modicum of common sense and not make an already horrific situation worse.  Give foster parents the tools and support they need to help these traumatized children in school.

You can read more of Salmon’s article here.

Jun 232018
 
 June 23, 2018  Posted by  Court, Laws

Jeffrey L. Widman of Fox Rothschild writes that Illinois’ Biometric Information Privacy Act was enacted in 2008, it was pretty much ignored by plaintiffs’ attorneys in privacy litigation. In the last year, however, there has been an explosion of cases citing it:

Although BIPA provides a private right of action to individuals aggrieved by a violation of the Act, plaintiff’s attorneys essentially ignored BIPA from 2008 through 2016 and few lawsuits were brought on behalf of aggrieved individuals. However, in the past year, more than 30 class actions have been filed in Illinois for purported BIPA violations. Why the trend? For one, BIPA imposes penalties of $1,000 per negligent violation of the Act and $5,000 (or actual damages, whichever is greater) for intentional or reckless violations. Second, BIPA allows for the recovery of reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs, including expert witness fees. Accordingly, BIPA is a prime target for members of the plaintiff’s bar.

Read more on Privacy Compliance & Data Security.