A Firing Over FERPA?

By Debra Viadero — February 08, 2010 1 min read
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The movement to build longitudinal-data systems on student achievement has long butted heads with the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, better known as FERPA, a 1974 law created to protect students’ privacy.

The conflicts got to be so frequent that the U.S. Department of Education, under Margaret Spellings, even updated its regulations on the law last year to make it clearer that schools may share student data with outside contractors who perform work that school employees would otherwise do, such as electronic recordkeeping and testing.

This story
from Inside Higher Ed suggests, however, that the conflicts haven’t gone away. In the Feb. 1 article, the Education Department’s top FERPA watchdog, Paul Gammill, contends that he was fired because he argued in internal meetings and documents that the agency’s approach to spurring states to expand their longitudinal-student-data systems was running into conflict with the privacy law. In the story, department officials made no comments on Gammill’s allegation, which they say is a personnel matter.

But there is one congressman who is outraged. U.S. Rep. John Kline of Minnesota, the top Republican on the House Education and Labor Committee, said in a statement issued Friday that “the allegation that the U.S. Department of Education is making an end run around student-privacy laws is a serious charge and one that Congress should investigate immediately.”

My guess: We haven’t heard the last of this issue.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Inside School Research blog.