Parents’ Rights in Prince William County Schools

Can parents review the information the public schools hold about them and their children?  Can they access their child’s locker?  Can the public schools distribute a student’s information outside the local school district without the parents’ consent, for instance to the state or federal Department of Education or other organizations / institutions?

The first, can parents review the information PWCS hoods about their child, is a solid Yes.  As a parent with a minor child in PWCS, you can review the information PWCS has about your child.  Interestingly, parents are asked whether they’ll waive that right when their child applies for entry to any of district’s specialty programs.

Access to lockers is a different issue as there is no formal policy allowing parents to access their minor child’s locker.  That will change if policy # 782 is approved by the school board.  That policy reads, “Any custodial parent or legal guardian of a minor or unemancipated Prince William County Schools student shall have access at reasonable times to their child’s locker and the contents thereof. The Superintendent of Schools shall establish a regulation to implement this policy. Any denial of access to a locker at the building level may be appealed to the Superintendent or designee.” 

Distribution of a child’s information outside of the local school district without parental consent is a nebulous area, one which should receive a bit of attention from our elected school board and governing officials in Richmond.  The US Dept of Education recently passed regulations requiring state departments of Education and local school districts to provide student specific information to them for analysis – analysis that may or may not be conducted by the US Dept of Education.  What information must be provided isn’t specified, but the intent, as described by the US Dept of Education, is that the information will be used to help them ascertain the effectiveness of various instructional programs / approaches both within K – 12 and once school is complete. For instance, the US Dept of Education would like to be able to determine what K – 12 instructional programs a child who obtains a degree in Electrical Engineering followed and how they did in those classes, or what sex ed classes school’s with high teen pregnancy rates use.  There is no limit on the type of data the US Dept of Education would like to use, what the data will be used for, or who will conduct the analysis.

At present PWCS does not have a policy prohibiting the district from sharing student specific information outside the district, nor does it have a policy requiring notification of what information is to be shared and with whom.  Parents’ don’t even have the right to opt out of sharing their child’s data as they don’t know when it’s been shared or what’s been shared.

So, barring legislation at the state level, which has not been submitted, the US Dept of Education can demand any information they want about your child, can share it with anyone they want, can use for any purpose they want, and you have no right to even be notified that the information has been shared.  That’s probably something we should address.

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