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Student’s Privacy Rights Under FERPA Case Study

 

There are many ethical dilemmas that happen every day in education. Although the Texas Code of Ethics does well at creating a black and white standard of what is acceptable, sometimes situations happen that teachers need to be aware of when it comes to student’s rights. Here is an example of a situation that could happen:

“The math teacher assigned homework the night before, and the next day, he decides to allow the students to “trade and grade” the assignment.  This process allows for the students to trade papers with one another while the teacher calls out the answers.  Some teachers believe this saves time as well as helps reinforce skills learned. However, a struggling student feels embarrassed because they continue to perform poorly on assignments and other students are making fun of the student because of it. That afternoon, a parent calls to complain.  The parent claims that a classmate grading his/her child’s work is a violation of their right to privacy of personal records.”

The law that the parent is addressing is called the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). It says that educational records of students need to be kept private except with the written consent of the parent. The dilemma is if peer grading constitutes a violation of the FERPA student privacy laws. This relates to the Texas Codes of Ethics standard §247.2 3.31 that says that “the educator shall not reveal confidential information concerning students unless disclosure serves lawful professional purposes or is required by law”.

So did this teacher violate laws? Short answer is no.

In 2001, the Supreme Court Case is Owasso Independent School District vs. Falvo was a similar situation between a school and a student. The court upheld that although FERPA does say that educational records are to be protected unless a parent discloses the information, peer grading does not constitute educational records until they are in the gradebook. This would suggest that peer grading is a legal way to grade papers as well as help the students learn. Even though peer grading is an acceptable form of grading, there are alternatives to learning that the teacher could implement in the future.

A teacher could stop peer grading and after personally grading the papers, review the graded work with the students. This option is probably the most efficient in terms of solving the parent’s problem, but it has a few setbacks. This option could create twice as much work for the teacher because the teacher would have to independently complete grading and then take time out of class to review the graded work for the students.

A teacher could also assign number ids or utilize an iclicker program. This would be effective in creating an anonymous environment in the classroom and all the students would still be doing peer grading. The downside is that it will take longer to grade and input graded work into the gradebook because of the ids. Another further advancement is clicker technology to in the classroom (See https://www1.iclicker.com/ ). Students are given a number that corresponds to a name in the teacher gradebook. It is a quick way to check success in the classroom and which students need more assistance. (see link https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hvmqI4lu55c ) With the iclicker program, teachers can spend less time grading quizzes. As far as economic costs, the main cost would be for the iclicker program to be implemented in the classroom. In my research, it looks like the software is free. The only costs are that of the remotes, which are 50$ apiece. That would be a one-time cost of $1000 in a classroom of 20 students, where quizzes can be done quickly, effectively, and teachers could monitor progress easily in both individual and grouped data.

As a teacher, I would combine the possible alternatives. I would effectively end peer grading for assignments done by students and would grade them myself. Because this option has the possibility of providing much more work to me as a teacher, I would petition the school for an iclicker program in the classroom. This would allow me to be an effective teacher, while respecting the parent’s wishes for anonymity of their child’s grades on homework. I would also be able to use the program to allow for real time polling in the classroom during lectures and to engage students in learning through technology. By making this decision, this would conform to both §247.2 3.31 because it would create the most anonymous environment for grading student’s assignments. As an individual who teaches children in a middle school classroom, I commit myself to the privacy and safety protected under student’s rights. I have implemented a plan of privacy for children in the classroom and assume responsibility for the consequences that my decisions may incur in the future. With this implementation, I believe students will learn more successfully without the need to feel embarrassed by their work.

 

Code of Ethics. (1975). Retrieved October 13, 2016, from http://www.nea.org/home/30442.htm

Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). (n.d.). Retrieved October 14, 2016, from http://www2.ed.gov/policy/gen/guid/fpco/ferpa/index.html

Owasso Independent School District No. I-011 v. Falvo. (n.d.). Oyez. Retrieved October 16, 2016, from https://www.oyez.org/cases/2001/00-1073

Texas Administrative Code. (n.d.). Retrieved October 13, 2016, from http://texreg.sos.state.tx.us/public/readtac$ext.ViewTAC?tac_view=4

What are the Ethical Responsibilities of Teachers?

Teachers of integrity. Bullying. Ethical responsibilities of teachers in education have been in the limelight for years. Teachers have many responsibilities to their own professional staff and their students. The most important jobs that a teacher has are to teach the students and provide a safe environment for the student. The NEA and the Texas Code of Ethics outline many rules that teachers must follow in addition to that. Among the teacher’s ethical responsibilities are to not falsify records, engage in deceptive practices against the school, no alcohol on school property, keeping private records private through FERPA, not discriminating against students, not abusing students in any sense of the word, and refraining from inappropriate communication with students (Texas). Though the NEA and Texas Code of Ethics both talk about ethical responsibilities of teachers, the NEA references general guidelines to be followed in the ways of commitment to the profession and the student whereas the Texas Code of Ethics goes into more detail regarding specific policies and the responsibilities that a teacher must uphold to the school itself.

Teachers have the responsibility of keeping students’ records private under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). FERPA is similar to HIPAA for medical records. It says that parents have a right to access their child’s education records and amend them if they are believed to be inaccurate. The teacher side of that is thferpa-special-education-ieps-600x600at teachers need permission to disclose any personally identifiable information from education records (Family). This means that students and their work have a certain right to privacy under the law. Teachers have the responsibility to show grades only to that student, keep proper documents and information about students such as IEPS or 504 plans in a protected space not accessible by other students.

Teachers also have an ethical responsibility to the safety of their students, which amasses most of the teacher policies in the Texas Code of Ethics. One way teachers can protect students is through prevention of bullying. Even through the growing resources for awareness and education, bullying is a problem in schools that still exists in schools today. Bullying can be both perpetrated by boys and girls, but most of the time it is against the same sex of the bully in a show of dominance. Sometimes it can also be against the other sex. When it was published in 2011, Rodkin’s article reveals that 60% of 5th-7th grade girls reported being bullied by boys, and an astonishing 38% of them were sexually harassed.

This week, when researching bullying and the teacher’s ethical responsibility to help, I was reminded of my own experiences in school. I was bullied for 4 years in middle school. I faced a group of girls who teased me for how ugly I was because I wore glasses and a headband. Most of the bullying for two years was emotional bullying, being left out of things, and not invited to any parties when all the other girls were. In the last two years, it turned to sexual harassment every day by a group of boys in my grade. It eventually peaked when I was hit in the face by a male classmate and had a black eye for the next few days at school. My dad had to fight to get this boy suspended because the principal didn’t want to rub elbows with the secretary, who was his mom. I spent the rest of the year in 8th grade getting bullied nearly every day, feeling alone, and hating school.

One thing that bothered me in school was that I felt like I had no ally in my own teachers or my classmates. All this bullying happened in the open but the teachers never talked about the bullying in the classroom or created an environment to fix it. Rodkin talks about bullbullying-cartoonying and the different the many ways that teachers can prevent bullying by asking students about bullying, asking students about their relationships, changing classroom structure, utilizing antibullying curriculums, and recognizing some of the causes of bullying too.

To combat bullying, teachers should know about bullying and the potential for it to happen in their own classroom. They can ask students about bullying and gauge their knowledge of bullying in general. They should know the indicators of a bully or a potential bullying situation through knowing which students dislike each other and what students are at risk to be a bully or be bullied. They can ask students about their relationships with students at school to also gain knowledge about the class.

Another way teachers can prevent bullying is using the environment in the classroom. A teacher can pick leaders who are good models of appropriate behavior and have them be leaders inside and outside the classroom to prevent bullying (Rodkin). Teachers can also stay informed of ways to teach antibullying curriculums to be able to feel competent to teach about it or present media about bullying that is relevant to the student and their age. Being able to do this will encourage the teacher to promote all classmates being good friends and to stand up against bullies. Rodkin talks about the last way that teachers can tackle bullying: by understanding that bullying may be an outward expression of an inner struggle. Some bullies have other things going on at home and have anger problems. It is important as ethically responsible teachers to get to know the students and their struggles they may have.

Though ethic responsibilities for teachers is a list of almost thirty different guidelines, they can be summed up into few words: integrity and safety. Being a teacher of integrity will promote a more respectful environment in the classroom and promoting safety and kindness will minimize bullying and other forms of abuse. Many schools today have made great strides in trying to rid the classroom of bullies, and granted middle school for me was a little over a decade ago, but there is always room for improvement. Empowering teachers to feel competent to tackle bullying and be aware of the struggles of their students will promote a safe classroom, and maybe one day, bullying will never be something I must tackle with my own child.

Bibliography

Code of Ethics. (1975). Retrieved October 13, 2016, from http://www.nea.org/home/30442.htm

Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). (n.d.). Retrieved October 14, 2016, from http://www2.ed.gov/policy/gen/guid/fpco/ferpa/index.html

H., & H. (2015). {ABCs of IEPs} F is for FERPA. Retrieved October 14, 2016, from http://adayinourshoes.com/FERPA-IEP-Special-Education/

Rodkin, P. C. (2011). Bullying — And the Power of Peers. Educational Leadership, 69(1), 10-16.

Stop Bullying Cartoon [Cartoon]. (n.d.). In Cartoonaday.com

 

Texas Administrative Code. (n.d.). Retrieved October 13, 2016, from http://texreg.sos.state.tx.us/public/readtac$ext.ViewTAC?tac_view=4