Student confidentiality versus a teacher's right to know
It's the time of year when students begin to face the reality of finishing up for the semester and positioning themselves for a strong finish. At least most of them. There are a few kids, however, that just, um, how to say it? go PLUMB CRAZY and do really stupid things.
So there have been a few instances when teachers have been stonewalled when a student of theirs has been disciplined. Frankly, refusal by administrators to inform teachers regarding student discipline is not only unprofessional and wrong, it is against the law. Federal law.
There is a federal law known as FERPA, which stands for Family Educational Records and Privacy Act. It defines and limits the kind of information that school districts can reveal, and to whom. Our administrators are pretending or are deluded into believing that FERPA enables them to hide information regarding students from teachers.
Apparently, the ability to read something all the way through is not merely lacking among our students, because the law also CLEARLY states that educational professionals can be informed of what is in students' records even without parental permission. This is called the "need-to-know" exception. Basically, FERPA is very clear that teachers who are responsible for direct instruction of a student have the right to know about the educational records of that student, and this includes discipline.
Beyond that, however, this bizarre claim of counterproductive confidentiality also blatantly violates state law where I work.
This is the matter of reason: how can we work with students if we do not know if they are prone to certain behaviors, or, unfortunately, even violent? We spend more time with students by a factor of hundreds each school year than do administrators. This is also a matter of worker safety, frankly. Finally, there can be no communication and cooperation between administration and teachers if we do not know what is going on in students' lives. This harms the productive functioning of the school.
After one recent (unknown) incident, we were called into an impromptu faculty meeting to be told that something bad was going on and to ask to keep an ear out for rumors or information that could help in the administrators' investigation. One brave soul actually asked "Look out for what?" The repeated response? "I can't tell you due to confidentiality, but let me know if you see or hear anything about this incident." Once again-- what incident?
That was helpful. And an idiotic -and insulting!- waste of my time. The very clear implication is that we are not to be trusted with information that would make us more productive. What do they think we are going to do-- go around and gossip? And here's the stupid thing: this ridiculous and illegal denial just stirs the rumor mill even harder. Dolts.
I mean seriously, this is high school. If we reported every rumor we heard kids spreading, we would be doing nothing but reporting all day long. How long has it been since these people were in a classroom? Never mind, I know the answer.
The school district will get away with this kind of denigration of teachers' rights as long as we LET them get away with it.