Sunday, November 16, 2008

More Stupider, FERPA-ized & Conspiracy Theories

Is it all in my head?
Is it all in my head?
Could everything be all right without me knowing?
Is it all just some game
Where everything stays the same
Is it all in my head....?

Stress has made me exponentially more stupider.

I know I’ve discussed this topic before, but I think I’ve cross the threshold this time. Let’s back up and start near the beginning…

Somewhere the architects of FERPA (Family Educational Rights & Privacy Act) secretly sneer at the havoc this little piece of legislation has wrought for high school publications advisers from coast-to-coast.

Now I know that FERPA supposedly was never intended to apply to student publications. (You can go here and here to read about that.) But that never stopped school attorneys from telling school districts to FERPA-ize everything, and while some may call me crazy, I have chosen not to meet Albert Einstein’s definition of insanity and keep bashing my head against the same brick wall by fighting it. It’s a losing proposition to argue otherwise. Sometimes you just have to go with the flow.

Still, I’m convinced that those FERPA writers and school attorneys must harbor a secret grudge against yearbooks and publications advisers. Maybe their names were misspelled, or perhaps a pimple was photoshopped onto their noses, or maybe those “theys” are just humorless-naysaying-mean-spirited-Richie-hata-types who plot in little backrooms on how to make hardworking-emergency-chocolate-eating-poor people like me miserable. Sometimes (OK, it’s probably more like all the time), I just want to pinch their pointy little heads off.

Now, you non-advisers probably are clueless as to what all this ranting is about. Let me bring you up-to-date speedy quick. At the beginning of the school year, school districts send home a nifty little form (ours is Christmas-green in color). Parental units check a block granting or denying permission for their kiddos picture/work,/name to be published online, in the school newspaper, in the school yearbook, on the bathroom wall. (OK, perhaps maybe not that last one). Our form gives them several choices. It goes something like this…

  • Choice #1–Yes for giving permission for everything (including the yearbook), but not for directory information
  • Choice #2–Yes for giving permission for publishing information in a directory
  • Choice #3–No for leave my kid out of everything
  • Choice #4–And then there’s some other choice, but I can’t remember because I’m old.
Admittedly, it can be confusing. And confusing it was, when I got a rather nice email from one of our very, very nice keepers of the FERPA list telling me to take a kid out of the NOs and move him into the YES list.

So I looked at my NO list and his name wasn’t there and this is how FERPA crumbled my world in one afternoon. Here’s a synopsis…

Me…I’m really confused now. If they are on the “Yes to directory,” then they can be in the yearbook right? I was only taking out the NOs.

FERPA keeper…There are 5 categories…“NO” equals NO, do not release any information. “YES SCHOOL” equals YES to anything and everything school related. “YES DIRECTORY” equals name, address, phone number can be added in a phone book directory, but this was for the elementary schools and should have never been on the High School FERPA form. They just like to make one district form. “NO RESPONSE” equals YES to everything because they never turned in a form.

Me (After I read that last email about a gazillion times, I decided it was time to throw pride down the drain and admit the obvious)…OK. I’m stupid. Just tell me this… does “YES DIRECTORY” mean YES to the yearbook?

FERPA keeper …“YES DIRECTORY” means NO to the yearbook.

I sort of felt like Liza Doolittle in My Fair Lady. (“I think I’ve got it!. I think I’ve got it!” “By George! I think she’s got it!”)

So-o-o-o-o-o NO really means NO, and YES means YES, except when YES really means NO.

See what I mean? I think I’m officially the most dumbest. I think I need to buy the FERPA keeper some emergency chocolate. Her job is crazier than mine because not only does she have to put up with the humorless-naysaying-mean-spirited-Richie-hata-types who plot in little backrooms on how to make hardworking-emergency-chocolate-eating-poor people like us miserable, she also has to put up with me.

So I did what any self-respecting, bat-crack crazy publications adviser would do––I took the four page list and cornered my principal in the cafeteria.

While I explained the whole shebang, one of the assistant principals who was standing nearby sort of took a giant step back. I think it had something to do with the fact that my eyes were a tad crazy-glazed and my voice was about an octave higher (and maybe even a bit screechier), and well, maybe, just maybe, my hands were animated just a smidge more than usual. Oh, and I think I might have had my scary-face on, too, but I was not holding any sharp objects.

At that point, my principal just gently pried the list from my fingers and told me he’d take care of it.

I didn’t have the heart to tell him about that whole Richie-hata conspiracy theory or those “theys” who congregate in backrooms.

Well, maybe next time.


Anonymous said...

FERPA was never meant to be applied to student publications. Of course your district may choose to restrict information it gives to you, but they may be running afoul of state laws and Supreme Court decisions against unreasonable restrictions on the student press. Especially if they try to tie it to FERPA. I would make sure that any parent who is mad when their student is left out of the yearbook is sent directly to the school board to complain about the policy.

Melissa B. said...

You know, I think we have a Keeper of the FERPA List, too, but no one ever tells moi nothin'. Sooooooooo, we just go merrily along until someone shrieks at us. And hey, please stop by my Silly Sunday Sweepstakes. We've got another Sweet Snap for ya...and it's always fun to Share the Caption Love! I KNOW this will calm your bewildered soul!

Anonymous said...

That's nuts! You know what, if a kid wants out of the yearbook so badly, they need to do exactly what Colin and I did...endure 2-3 years living under the thumb of Richie in order to steal our own photos from the yearbook EVERY SINGLE YEAR. It was worth it.

Curmudgeon said...

The problem is obvious ...

You weren't pointing at the list with a chicken.

Of course, had you arrived in the cafeteria and cornered the principal while waving a rubber chicken in his face, probably more than just the AP would have taken a giant step backwards. (At the least, civilization would have taken a hit.)

But then again, you'd be famous forever.