NEWCASTLE – California public school records, including identifiable information such as Social Security numbers, addresses and special education assessment information, can potentially be released to attorneys for the Morgan Hill Concerned Parents Association pending lawsuit in federal court.
The Morgan Hill Concerned Parents Association, part of the larger California Concerned Parents Association, is a group of volunteers that advocate for children with special needs. The group filed a lawsuit against the California Department of Education in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California in 2012 over claims that students with disabilities are not receiving adequate education and care.
Like many schools in the state, Newcastle Elementary School District sent a letter home to parents on Feb. 22 outlining the lawsuit and ways to object.
“Newcastle Elementary School District takes the privacy of its families and students very seriously and will continue to advise you as to all steps that may be necessary for you to protect your confidential information and records,” Superintendent Denny Rush said in the letter. “It is very important that you understand your right as a parent, to object to such a disclosure, should a final disclosure order be issued."
The review will be overseen by a court-ordered special master, and all data is ordered to be destroyed afterward. While only 10 individuals will actually be reviewing the information, and are required to keep it confidential, some parents are deeply concerned about privacy issues. The parents want to know where the information will end up after it is destroyed and why the identifiable information is necessary.
Children with disabilities, children who requested an assessment for special education eligibility and children who have attended a California school at any time since Jan. 1, 2008, are included in the records review.
U.S. Federal Judge Kimberly Mueller issued an order allowing parents, guardians and former students older than 18 to object.
Those wishing to object to the disclosure can do so by completing and mailing the Objection to Disclosure of Student Information and Records Case No. 2:211-cv-03471 form or by writing a letter to Mueller. Those choosing to write a letter must include the student’s full name, the name of the person writing the letter and their relationship to the student, the student’s birth date, their county, school district, and school name. They can also add the basis for their objection, but it is not required. Letters should include in large or underlined type the words "to be filed under seal" and "Objection to Disclosure of Student Information and Records Case No. 2:211-cv-03471" on the first page.
Forms and letters of objection may be mailed to the following address: The Honorable Kimberly J. Mueller, c/o Clerk of the Court, U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California, 501 I St., Room 4-200, Sacramento, CA 95814. Attention: DOCUMENT FILED UNDER SEAL.
Objections must reach the court by April 1 to be considered.