Issue of student privacy raised at School Committee meeting
On Monday, October 16 the Cranston School Committee held their monthly meeting at their new location, the Cranston High School East auditorium.
Going through the agenda, they offered citations, congratulations and farewells.
They presented citations to the people involved with the renovations of the Cranston High School West Auditorium project and the people who worked so hard to make it a reality.
Cranston East art teacher and Program Supervisor for the Visual Arts for K-12, Jill Cyr was congratulated on her award for Rhode Island Art Education Association (RIAEA) Outstanding Art Supervisor of the Year.
"Jill, you deserve no less of an honor for all of your hard work. We are grateful for all of the hard work, time and diligence you put in your job every day. You truly deserve this, so congratulations," said Superintendent, Jeannine Nota Masse as she read the resolution.
The School Committee reluctantly accepted the retirement of long time teacher and administrator Gerald Auth, and each member spoke to and of him with the highest praise.
Following the rest of the consent agenda, the meeting was open to public comment.
Dannelle Littleton, Chairperson for Cranston Special Education Advisory Committee (SEAC) spoke about the recent issues the donorschoose.org web site.
"I am here tonight to speak as the Chairperson of the Special Education Advisory Committee or SEAC, who has been charged with and accepted the duty to advocate for the rights of students enrolled in special education.
“As I am sure you are all well aware, there has been a blatant disregard for student privacy and the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act [FERPA] by staff of this district on the crowdfunding website, Donorschoose. While we have been assured by Administrators that pictures identifying students as special education students or describing their disabilities will be removed from the website, there are still some requests with pictures currently viewable on this website," she said.
She went to cite several specific images. "For example, there is still a picture of a student who is described as being visually impaired. Other examples are the pictures of students who may have trouble staying focused because they have autism spectrum disorders, pictures of students who may have emotional and sensory needs, or students In pictures that may “live in poverty and have been exposed to violence and substance abuse”, she said. Littleton asked for specific measures to be taken. "We would request that everything in your power be done to rectify this situation immediately. This situation was brought to our attention on September 14th. It is frustrating that it has been over a month and those pictures still remain on the website," said Littleton.
She brought to their attention, that there had actually been foreshadowing of this exact problem.
"In May of 2016, the National School Boards Association Council of School Attorneys published an article urging school districts nationwide to create policies and regulations regarding crowdfunding. The DonorsChoose website was the crowdfunding source that they used to explain the dangers or liability that school districts may face because of these crowdfunding techniques. The article went on to describe potential FERPA and IDEA violations that they found on the website. It is unfortunate that our district was not proactive in putting policies and regulations for crowdfunding in place," she said.
Littleton concluded by stressing the importance of the FERPA policy within the district.
"Since this is the third FERPA violation in the last five years that SEAC has had to bring to the attention of Administrators, we would also like to request that FERPA training be given annually to all staff of Cranston Public Schools. I have heard FERPA described as the educational equivalent of HIPPA many times, so I reached out to a friend who is a nurse and asked her about HIPPA training for the staff at her hospital. Here’s what she had to say, “Not only is it a law that is and should be fully enforced. It's part of our commitment to our patients & their care. It is in our yearly education, our yearly reviews and our daily routine of care. Why are we not treating a law that is in place to protect our students with the same type of conviction?" said Littleton.
The last speaker was the representative for the food service workers in Cranston, Nancy Iadeluca.
"I just wanted to let you know that I am very pleased to report that we have struck a five-year deal with Aramark. It is a deal that should make the School Committee and community at large very proud. That the wages are not exactly at minimum wage but are coming up over the next five years. And, the workers were very, very proud and pleased that we were able to work that out today. We will have a ratification vote on Monday, and it will be my recommendation that they vote yes on that contract," she said.