May 292013
 
 May 29, 2013  U.S., Youth & Schools

CORRECTION: This appears to be Batavia, Illinois, not the Batavia in New York.

Susan Sarkauskas reports on a case in Batavia, New York that raises some important questions:

A Batavia High School teacher’s fans are rallying to support him as he faces possible discipline for advising students of their Constitutional rights before taking a school survey on their behavior.

They’ve been collecting signatures on an online petition, passing the word on Facebook, sending letters to the school board, and planning to speak at Tuesday’s school board meeting.

Students and parents have praised his ability to interest reluctant students in history and current affairs.

But John Dryden said he’s not the point. He wants people to focus on the issue he raised: Whether school officials considered that students could incriminate themselves with their answers to the survey that included questions about drug and alcohol use.

Read more on Daily Herald.

We need more details on what, exactly, the parents were told about the contents of the survey – including whether they were told that their children’s responses would be stored for future use and comparison.  And in those states who might be sharing data with entities designated as “school officials,” were parents told specifically who would have access to their children’s sensitive information? Were they told if data would be stored only locally or in the cloud?

Although the teacher used it as a moment to teach the 5th Amendment right against self-incrimination, what privacy rights do students have if their parents have not opted them out of a district or school survey? Does a student have the right to say, “This is too personal. I decline to answer?”

And if you don’t know whether your children have the right to (safely) refuse, whom will you ask?

 

  2 Responses to “Warning lands Batavia teacher in hot water (CORRECTED)”

  1. The school district I work in does a similar survey each year at the junior high. No one is required to fill them out and the students are told specifically to not put their names on it. I’m sure if you really wanted to, you could sort through it all and match penmanship, but everyone in our district is far too lazy to do that. Our school also doesn’t keep the papers after the data has been collated. They are shredded and the paper is recycled. While the final graphs and totals are compared year to year, there isn’t a way to identify students from the survey.

    I know that one of the things they do with the results is to gauge what types of speakers the school will concentrate on bringing in (don’t do drugs, safe sex, bullying, etc) and how to better combat whatever is the biggest concern amongst the students.

    • Sounds like your district does a decent job of this. But we need more info about this district/school. Did the instructions tell the students they didn’t have to complete it? And if they’re keeping identified responses over the years to track/compare, that’s risky.

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