Tuesday, August 12, 2014
New York State Department of Education just released "Parents' Bill of Rights for Data Privacy and Security." It is based on the U.S. Department of Education's "Model Notification of Rights." In essence, it is a reiteration of the rights contained in the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act. The document, however, came with a certain amount of fanfare given the recent concerns over data privacy. The reiterated rights include the right to
- inspect and review a student's records
- request corrections of inaccurate information in the records
- prevent disclosure of personal records to third parties
- refuse to let the school include a student in it directories
- file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education for violations of the Act
At the risk of sounding grumpy, it strikes me as preposterous to use the term "Bill of Rights" in regard to this document, even though it is qualified by "Privacy." As a basic descriptive term, bill of rights is fitting enough, but "Bill of Rights" is rarely invoked descriptively. Most often, it is used to liken a document to the broad, fundamental rights included in the first eight amendments of the U.S. Constitution. In that respect, it is meant to declare something monumental.While important, these privacy rights are not equivalent to constitutional rights. They are primarily procedural, cannot be enforced in court, and do nothing to affect the education delivered to students. Labeling this privacy document a bill of rights is even more of an affront when one considers all of the the education rights that could or should be in a bill of rights, but which are not: funding, equal opportunity, teacher quality, teacher rights, discipline, etc. If students constitutional rights to education were already being fully enforced, the articulation of new bills of rights would raise few concerns. Unfortunately, that is not the case.