Communicate: Laws of Communication Quest

posted May 18, 2016, 10:22 AM by Emily Kroutil   [ updated May 19, 2016, 8:02 AM ]
FERPA, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, is important.  Unfortunately, a lot of teachers (and parents) aren't familiar with this legal document.  Here are the basics as represented in the TOOL platform:
  • DO NOT share grades in an email unless requested by the administration
  • DO request a phone call with a parent/guardian to discuss the numerical grade
  • DO NOT share information about the student with anyone other than the parent/guardian
  • DO suggest that third parties contact the parents in regard to student progress
  • Parents and students DO have the right to ask for educational records
We've had problems with this in my district.  Teachers like to contact parents regarding grades via email because it leaves a paper trail.  Parents like to email teachers and ask what their child's grade is.  Or, parents will email teachers and say something like, "Why does Susie have a 56% in your class?"  Teachers have responded to these emails or tried to stay in contact with parents who often don't answer their home phones during the school day (Interestingly enough, parents are usually at work during the school day...) got into trouble because when the district had legal cases, the lawyers would request the emails and these emails had all sorts of confidential information in them.  So, we got a talking to as a district about sharing too much information over email.  The next school year, I sent a letter home to my parents that specifically stated that I could not legally share specific grade information with them via email so everyone was on the same page.

It is important to be aware of these guidelines.  I often refer parents to PowerSchool and suggest that they come to the school and get their PowerSchool login information if they want specific grade information online.  Or I will tell them that I can print a progress report and send it home with the child.

Often, when people violate copyright, they do so unwittingly.  As teachers, it is important to be aware of copyright laws.  It's also important to share these laws with your students, especially when they are creating projects or writing research papers.  When discussing digital citizenship with your students, it would be a good idea to incorporate a discussion of copyright laws.  That way, students don't unwittingly violate copyright laws.  There are a variety of sites that allow student work to be submitted and make sure they aren't plagiarized.  These sites and software will tell you what percentage of the student's work is original.  If something looks like it is possibly plagiarized, it is easy to type in that phrase in Google.  Often, if the work is plagiarized, the Google search will bring up the site that contains the original work.  I also tell my students, "when in doubt, cite!"  That way they can cover themselves.

Luckily, copyright laws do not require that all work, images, words, and graphics must be original.  They require that these media are cited correctly and the owners/creators are given proper credit for creating them.  If copyright laws required that everything was original, then work could never be shared and people wouldn't receive recognition for their work nearly as often.