Californian children jeopardized by court ruling

KC Longley, Staff Writer

We go through our years of public education with the phrase “that will go on your record!” hanging over our heads. So generally students have always tried to maintain a respectable student profile.

In California, student records can hold a large amount of information. According to the California Department of Education website, student records hold information on their name, address, ethnicity, birthdate, attendance data and gradual student progress as the years go on, just to name a few. And of course this progress includes students standardized test scores (those exams teachers and administrators spent half the year preparing for and us students couldn’t care less about because, hey, they don’t affect our grades).

Recently, news came forward that 10 million California student records were to be released to a group of parents that is suing the state. This group of parents is suing the state claiming “students with special needs weren’t getting adequate services,” according to CBS San Francisco. The San Jose Mercury also states that the records they are asking for will contain information such as “Social Security numbers, test scores, heath and mental records and more.”

Parents and students have a preconceived notion that these records, which contain a lot of personal information, would not get into the hands of strangers, even though they state in the San Jose Mercury that only 10 people will be privy to accessing the material and that afterwards they mean to destroy it.

But from a student’s point of view, what about that confirmation that something has actually been destroyed? And what about system failure? The problem with technology is that you can never actually be 100% certain something is deleted, or processed correctly.

However according to the SJ Mercury, the group claims to have requested they receive all of this information without any specific names, but that the California Department of Education denied. But then to go on the other side of things, the department claims they are not doing anything wrong. The spokesperson of the department, Peter Tira, told SJ Mercury that “the California Department of Education has been fighting vigorously to defend the privacy rights of students throughout California, but we are required to comply with the court order in this case.”

The SJ Mercury also states that “it was not immediately clear why Social Security numbers and other sensitive information couldn’t be redacted.” But why can’t information like that be extracted? Especially considering the group said they didn’t request sensitive information from students profiles.

A few schools have tried to warn parents how they can attempt to get an exemption. It is unfortunate that it is up to the parents to search ways to remove their child’s information from this collection, especially because so many parents are frustrated this is even happening in the first place.

Coming from a student perspective, albeit no longer in grades K-12, who is to say eventually they would not attempt to get students information who have already graduated? There is a feeling of uneasiness that random people would have access to personal records and it is perfectly understandable parents are feeling a sense of discomfort.