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California Parents Object to Pending Release of Private Student Data

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Some California parents are fighting the release of 10 million student records, many of which include private information, ordered by a federal court in a special education lawsuit.

But it's unclear if parents' requests will be met. And questions have been raised about why so much student information is collected in the first place.

Parents and school district officials started complaining last week after news came out that Judge Kimberly Mueller, of the U.S. District Court in the Eastern District of California, ordered that data be handed over so plaintiffs in a lawsuit could determine if the state is meeting its federal special education obligations.

The information could include Social Security numbers, addresses, health records, grades, test scores, and individualized education programs for disabled students, according to an Associated Press story by Christine Armario. Any student who has attended school since Jan. 1, 2008, would fall under the order.

Neither side in the Morgan Hill Concerned Parents Association vs. California Department of Education case wants so many private details released.

California Concerned Parents, one of the plaintiffs, posted a message on its website that it tried unsuccessfully to mediate with the California Department of Education to release "pseudo names."

Bill Ainsworth, the California education department''s spokesman, said its attorneys have offered to provide redacted information, but that the offer was rejected.

Since the news came out last week, the department has been bombarded with at least 2,400 calls in a four-day span, Ainsworth said. The state department put up a notice on its website, instructing parents how to object to their students' information being released. The deadline is April 1.

But the court order does not clearly state if the judge will block the release of data, despite parents' objections, according to an EdSource story by Theresa Harrington.

For now, the California State Parent Teacher Association is circulating information about how to object to the data release. School districts around the state are doing the same.

"We are complying with the court order, but we're going to keep our options open," Ainsworth said. "We're going to consider legal action to limit or prevent the release."

The issue goes back to court on Friday.

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