16 February 2010

Yet Another Reason to Act Paranoid

This one was well-buried on the HSLDA website, in a short article on the state of homeschooling in Missouri dealing with a parent who was asked for MORE information than the law required:

"Parents should be aware that under Missouri’s 'Sunshine Law' (chapter 610, R.S. Mo.) the public may be able to obtain access to just about anything the family files with the school system—including birth dates and Social Security numbers—that relates to a student who is homeschooled and not enrolled in the school. The federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA, 20 U.S.C. 1232g) generally only protects students of the school that holds the records and information in question. Since youngsters who are homeschooled (and not simultaneously enrolled in a public school) are not students 'of' the school, FERPA may not protect their privacy. This is one of the reasons HSLDA has consistently fought to protect the rights of families against improper demands for information."

Now, I love HSLDA. And I agree with almost all their tenets. Like them, I see parental rights as an important issue, and one that is also tied directly to the direction of a child's education. That being said, I'd rather hear on the FRONT page that information sharing between me and the local public school is a matter of public record if said child is not enrolled.

I'm a parent. I think that the safety of my children (including their identities!) is paramount. Number one! Wouldn't you think this loophole in the law ought to be dealt with by HSLDA before they worry about whether a couple gay guys in Alabama or wherever get married? (Not that I'm OK with that.) And in states where information is REQUIRED to be divulged to school districts, is it a matter of public record? Would homeschool files become a treasure trove of social security numbers and other identifying papers? Maybe it doesn't scare enough people into becoming members as the "oh no, gay people" factor... but I'm thinking from a legal standpoint, this information being a matter of public records is a form of unequal treatment of a student based on his method of education (14th Amendment rights: "...nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws." Emphasis mine; more on FindLaw). Maybe I am wrong in coming to this conclusion... they're the lawyers, and I'm certainly not.

Sure, not too many people are stealing the identities of eight-year-olds. But it does happen. And industrious people can save that information in their pockets for later when they can use it to smuggle in an illegal immigrant, run up a credit card debt, a house loan, or default on taxes.

Seems to me that in the past, we would get letters from colleges for Patrick right around the time that MAP scores would come out. Now we have REALLY got it going on as he has taken the SAT. Sometimes two or three notes will come in at a time. (They must have no idea that he has NO MONEY to speak of.) I have myself a feeling that generally, it isn't the schools divulging all this information, but secondary sources working WITH the schools. I can't prove this in any way, as certainly the colleges don't send letters stating, "Dear Patrick, We saw your SAT score recently after it was forwarded by our search company. Blah blah talk to your counselor and take a tour so you can give us lots of money and enroll in our school."

They just don't. If I had the power to make one law that didn't have to do with basic human rights... something "extra," it would be that all telemarketers and marketing people must disclose where they got your name and number from when they're asked. You'd be surprised how often it's YOU giving out your own info on sweepstakes and the like, but it would be nice to know if, say, our mortgage company were ratting us out as being idiots who pay their bills even when housing prices decline.

3 comments:

  1. Shortly after we moved to the little town we've now been in for the last twelve years or so I received a letter from the local public school inviting me to send them a list of the curriculum I was using for the boys. It was stated (at the bottom of the page) that I was not required to do this, but that it was something they were collecting for informational purposes only. I threw the form in the trash, but the hair stood up on the back of my neck. To this day I do not know how they found out that we were living there or that we were homeschoolers. I knew next to no one in the community and the only homeschoolers I knew did the same thing with the form that I did. I've seen letters like this twice in my life and both times it disturbed me. Losing a right to can sometimes be as easy as not being attentive to smaller, seemingly innocuous erosions along the way. After this I grew a little paranoid and probably with good reason.

    When I enrolled Daniel for art classes, the first two years I simply filled out a form that stated that he had my permission to be there and a phone number in case they needed me. The principal seemed comfortable with homeschoolers and that was nice. The third year they had a change in administration (the principal was nasty to parents in general, but especially homeschoolers--causing a huge outflux of families, many of whom became homeschoolers). That fall I was greeted by a school counselor who demanded that I fill out enrollment forms that detailed how many children we had at home and where they went to school, how much money we made a year, etc. I was umm . . . more than angry. If the classes hadn't been so important to Daniel I'd have left and never returned. Instead I simply chose to give her bare bones information--our address and phone and left the rest of it blank. I made a note at the top of the form that Daniel was homeschooled and could only be expected to attend art classes as I wanted no phone calls or prying. It seemed to satisfy their curiosity about us. She tried this a second time the next year and received the same information. I know she read the form and she apparently observed Daniel in class (he shared this). When I went to work as a sub shortly after this, she over heard me talking to another teacher about my four boys and was completely amazed to learn that there were more at home. I said nothing. Daniel attended art classes there for two more years and I never had to fill out another form.

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  2. See, that's one of the things that creep me out about public school forms... the sibling name/ages/ where they go to school thing!!

    I fill it out and include only the other PUBLIC SCHOOL children. Obviously since they've had Elf and Emperor in their records somewhere, they're aware of their existence. But I don't like giving out tons of info just to give it out.

    I DO give it out on the other public school kids in case there is an emergency (shooting, fire, bus accident) and they need somehow to coordinate family groups or whatever. I think that's actually a wise thing, to give that info out so the left hand knows what the right is doing.

    But no good stinkin' reason they need to know ages and grade levels of my infant or my homeschoolers. I used to give out EVERYTHING, and I've grown wiser. :)

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  3. PS Can I also mention it creeps me out that the counsellor "observed" Daniel in class? Do they not have enough trouble helping the kids parents WANT looked after? I can think of about 20 kids off the top of my head who could GENUINELY use that one-on-one staff time.

    And they WASTE it like this. Just from a money perspective, it's wasteful... but creepy, too.

    Sigh. What is really sad is that I know that my spec. ed kids are "observed" all the time, but they don't notice it. Disability sucks, and it really is a difficult space to be in with the schools between getting "help" and dealing with "crap." Ok, forget quote marks... dealing with crap.

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