PTA gets goods on Bush initiative

Local activist Jim Brobeck, on a mission to tell parents about the details in Bush’s “No Child Left Behind” policy, asked the Pleasant Valley High School PTA recently if he could address these issues at its Feb. 7 meeting. Brobeck had already broached the matter with the Chico Unified School District Board of Trustees.

The PTA agreed, and Brobeck, speaking from a concerned parent’s point of view—he has a son attending PV—discussed what the latest federal education funding bill demands of all schools nationwide. “No Child Left Behind” requires school districts to send the Department of Defense a student directory of information or lose federal funding. However, Brobeck wants parents to know that the bill has a provision that gives parents and students the right to withhold this student information. The catch is, most parents and students are not aware of this proviso.

Brobeck told the PTA that parents and students should be fully informed of their rights of disclosure under this new bill. Currently, CUSD’s policy allows for the release of private student information to not only the Department of Defense, but also, Brobeck said, “the local police department, California Highway Patrol, the Butte County district attorney, Butte County welfare fraud investigators or any prosecuting attorney, Butte County Probation Department, Butte County Children’s Services, PTA, recruiting officers for the Armed Services, prospective employers and representatives of the news media.”

Under the policy, parents may refuse to allow the district to designate any or all of their child’s information, but only if the parents sign an “Acknowledgment of Rights” permission card by the end of the third week in the school year. A student’s information includes “name, address, phone number, date and place of birth, major field of study, participation in officially recognized activities and sports, weight and height, dates of attendance, degrees, awards received, and public or private school most recently attended by the student.”

Brobeck argued that the CUSD permission card is not clearly written, and many parents do not even know of its existence. He told the PTA that concerned parents have asked the district to rewrite the permission card so that it clearly indicates where the student’s information will be forwarded and provides a place for the parents and students to check off their permission or refusal for disclosure. They have also asked that parents be mandated to return the permission cards.

After addressing PV’s PTA members, Brobeck called for their support in notifying parents and students about their rights. A short discussion followed, during which PTA members voiced their own concerns about student privacy and reached a conclusion to look into the issues presented, as well as determine their own logistics about remaining a neutral body in this matter. The PTA does not want to become embroiled in political controversy. A vote will be held at the next PTA meeting March 7.

PV’s newsletter, the Viking Voice, has also published information concerning this matter recently in two different letters, hoping to inform parents about their rights concerning their students’ privacy.