LORAIN — The Lorain Schools CEO possibly violated a federal student privacy law at a town hall meeting last week while displaying a Title I teacher’s activity log on a projector.
At the meeting Thursday, CEO David Hardy was discussing the effectiveness of the district’s Title I teachers, who are paid with federal funds to work either individually or in small group settings with students who struggle in reading and math, when he pulled up a log of how many students a Title I teacher had worked with in a month.
When the log was pulled up on screen the first time, the teacher’s name and the students’ names had been redacted but when it was pulled up a second time, the teacher, Andrew Bastock of General Johnnie Wilson Middle School, was identified and all of the students’ names were included as well as the students’ ID numbers.
David Carney, Case Western Reserve University law school professor and former Cleveland school board member, said it’s very possible Hardy violated the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act as well as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, also known as IDEA.
“There’s regulatory guidance in the IDEA that outlines disability status as an education record,” he said. “Given that schools can’t give out educational records per FERPA, I think you can safely say it would be a violation.”
In total, Bastock’s log was on the screen for about 30 seconds, but the district’s television channel, TV20, recorded the presentation and posted it on the channel’s Facebook and YouTube pages.
A teacher in the district, who agreed to speak with The Chronicle-Telegram anonymously, said she felt a potential FERPA violation could be very serious because the staff has to undergo professional development about the law every year.
“You don’t give a child’s information to anyone,” she said. “He put all of their names, all of their student IDs, up. It just worries me, this whole thing. It’s sad because the ones who are going to lose the most are the students, and they’re the ones who need it the most.”
According to the U.S. Department of Education, a complaint regarding a FERPA violation must be filed within 180 days of the date the complainant knew about the violation.
“If we receive a timely complaint that contains a specific allegation of fact giving reasonable cause to believe that a school has violated FERPA, we may initiate an administrative investigation into the allegation in accordance with procedures outlined in the FERPA regulations,” the department’s website states. “If a determination is made that a school violated FERPA, the school and the complainant are so advised, and the school is informed of the steps it must take to come into compliance with the law. The investigation is closed when voluntary compliance is achieved.”
Carney said it would have been a better practice to have used only the redacted version of Bastock’s log, but he isn’t sure the potential violation would cost the district federal funds, a possible penalty for violating FERPA.
General Johnnie Wilson Middle School teacher Cynthia Fuller, who works with Title I students, said she felt the records shouldn’t have been shown and noted that Bastock sent an email to Hardy saying the data as he presented it was incorrect.
Hardy was using the log to support his contention that Title I services could reach more students.
“We were required as Title teachers to only report the students we saw three or more times a week, so that’s underreporting,” she said. “Out of the 10 groups of students I work with, only one of them do I see three days a week. The other nine are either two days or one day a week.”
At the town hall meeting, Hardy said there are about 425 students in each of the buildings and of those students, Title I teachers serve only 27 students a month while 74 percent of students — or almost 315 per building — are not reading at grade level.
“It’s not an indictment on our people, but it is time to think differently if we want this to change,” he said at the meeting.
Lorain Education Association President Jay Pickering expressed concerns last week that Hardy was taking away Title I funding from teachers and would be instead using it to pay for administrators, causing the district to lose as many as 30 teachers next year.
At the Thursday meeting, Hardy didn’t address how the students who receive Title I services will be served next year, but a teacher, who would not allow her comments to be used if her name was public, said at a parent meeting last week the schools would start using an intervention block, meaning students are shuffled between teachers and those needing Title I services will all be in the same class for a period of the day.
“The problem is you still have a full class size then,” she said. “You still have kids not getting individual attention.”
Fuller said she has about 32 students that she sees each day and that doesn’t include the two periods a day she spends in full classrooms.
“They intentionally had us underreporting, and it makes us look bad,” she said. “Mr. Hardy’s response to my colleague was ‘Thank you, sir.’ I let one of the people in my union know and they saw there was data (on the screen) that wasn’t supposed to be there. She’s going to ask the OEA to see if it is a FERPA violation and then what we do about.”
Hardy and Bastock did not respond to requests for comment and a public records request for Bastock’s email to Hardy has been received by the district but hasn’t been filled.
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