Sunday, December 21, 2008

FERPA, Ninnyhammers & Clock Stoppers

Some of you may recall when I chatted--OK, so make that ranted--about FERPA (the Family Educational Rights & Privacy Act) that initially was enacted to protect the confidentiality of kiddos’ education records. Despite its original intent, school districts across the land went bat-crack crazy and decided to FERPA-ize everything, and, in the process, terrorize student publications advisers. (You can read about it here, here and here.)

Now my buddies at the Student Press Law Center tell me that the DOE (Department of Education) apparently has gone beyond bat-crack crazy and enacted some additional changes to FERPA that are slated to take effect Jan. 8.

I got a nice little email supposedly from Frank LoMonte himself (the executive director of the SPLC) asking if I would chat about it. OK, so he didn’t use the word chat exactly. I, of course, ever-so-easily flattered thought once again I must be a VIB (Very Important Blogger) to have received such a request. That is until I remembered that this nice little email was probably a mass emailing sent by some computer in a backroom. But, oh well, it’s important enough to chat about even if I can’t be a VIB.

You see, these new rules broaden what the DOE considers to be confidential education records to include basic stuff like statistical data about school safety, discipline and academic performance if school officials think that the person requesting the information or even kiddos on campus can figure out who the information might be about.

Personally, I like the DOE’s illustration of compliance for this new FERPA rule. Under the new guidelines, school officials would not be able to confirm whether it disciplined a student for bringing a gun on campus if the identity of the gun-wielding student could be known to other kids on campus. Because, after all, it’s more important to protect the identity of felons instead of telling students, parents or teachers of impending doom or what steps were taken to deal with said impending doom. No siree, Missy, we’ll have none of that. Hush, hush, don’t say a word.

My new buddy over at the Student Press Law Center tells me, “The DOE simply said that accountability doesn’t matter and that its only concern is secrecy.”

Now, all that nonsense got me to thinking, and by-golly, we all know what happens when that happens. Jeez Louise. But let’s just think about what a fab-u-lous idea it would be to FERPA-ize everything. Everything. Just think about it. Here’s my list…

Richie’s Top 5 list of things to FERPA-ize

#5…Spelling Bees…Those little competitions would have to be the first to go because everyone would know when someone gets an answer wrong, and OMG, we can’t have that now can we? Someone might be identified as a ninnyhammer, n-i-n-n-y-h-a-m-m-e-r, ninnyhammer.

#4…Group work and Project Presentations… Fugettaboutit. No longer can kids work on anything together or present their projects to the class because then everyone would know who did a good job and who didn’t, who were the slackers and who were the workers, who deserved an “A” and who deserved a big, fat zero. Kind of like in the work place, don’t ya know, but no siree, we can’t have that now, can we?

#3… Discipline referral forms… Gone. Sorry. No can do. I’d tell you why I wrote that referral form out, but then I’d have to…Oops, I better not finish that statement… Oh, wait, I guess I could finish that statement because aren’t we protecting felons now? No one would ever know. Shhhhhhhh.

#2…Fitness tests… We’re actually conducting fitness tests at my school, but I guess I better sound the alarm and make everyone stop. (I know my out-of-shape newspaper staff would be thrilled.) Yep, I guess we better stop because we wouldn’t want for anyone to know who came in first or last in that dash around the track. Nope, those times better be top secret stuff locked away along with those Push Up Test results. We wouldn’t want for anyone to get a hold of those dangerous stats.

#1…Grades… Yep, I’m going to have to take a stand here and tell my principal that I’m sorry, but I just don’t think I can turn in any grades of any kind any more. No siree. Just in case someone might know or divine who got an “A” or a “B” or a “C” or a whatever. Hey, perhaps FERPA-izing everything wouldn’t be so bad after all. Accountability? Who cares?

Maybe we should just rename the DOE to the DOBFSH––Department of Big Fat Stupid Heads.

But then I’d have to stop my Big Fat Stupid Head Counter.

Consider it done at 111 days, 16 hours, 19 minutes and 28 seconds.


Kelley said...

I better keep my opinion on this one to myself.

Melissa B. said...

We're going crazy at your Alma Mater, you betcha! I was summoned to my Assistant Principal's office just the other day and told that the "tone" of The Oracle could be a little more "positive." I, of course, rushed back to the classroom and told the kids. We devised a "Happiness Quotient" and scored the last issue. I'm Happy to report that we gave ourselves an 87 percent. I think that's pretty darn high, don't you?

Sorry about EduBlog. I looked at a few of the winners, and frankly, was not all that impressed. Sour grapes? I think not!

Anonymous said...

Thanks it is nice to see that other teachers are as frustrated as I am about all of the hush hush about these things. Your humor is much appreciated!