Case highlights additional challenge of providing virtual education while upholding laws

Federal officials recently found that the Gladstone School District had violated national regulations related to sharing students' personally identifiable information.COURTESY PHOTO: GSD - First graders line up at John Wetten Elementary for their first day in April of returning to in-person classes in Gladstone for more than a year.

District officials acknowledged that improper disclosure did occur as a parent alleged, according to Benjamin Ferraro, an analyst with the Student Privacy Policy Office of the U.S Department of Education. Last year a Gladstone teacher disclosed information related to a student's attendance, participation and missing assignments to other students and parents through a software program.COURTESY PHOTO: GSD - A redacted copy of the federal agencys finding regarding the Gladstone School District's violation of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act.

Gladstone School District spokesperson Leslie Robinette said that teachers statewide had been challenged to provide virtual classes and homework assignments since the beginning of the pandemic. District officials immediately worked to resolve the complaint filed under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act.

"We received the individual's concern prior to winter break and responded quickly, making sure our staff was aware of how to apply FERPA rules in a virtual classroom long before we were officially contacted," Robinette said.

Public records show that federal officials were satisfied with the Gladstone School District's response.

"I would also like to thank you for your thorough and attentive participation in our investigative process," Ferraro wrote on July 9. "I am encouraged to know that the District had already taken corrective actions in response to the improper disclosure prior to this Office's investigation."

Public records show that a group of teachers teaching a grade level related to the complaint in Gladstone received additional training on their obligations to protect the personally identifiable information from education records.

District administrators met with Gladstone's entire teaching staff to review how teachers can communicate with groups of students and lead classroom activities in online learning environments without improperly disclosing information from education records.

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