Law & Courts

Administration: Student-Grading Flap Not a Federal Case

By Mark Walsh — June 20, 2001 3 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

The Bush administration has urged the U.S. Supreme Court not to grant review of an Oklahoma case that centers on whether the practice of having students grade each other’s classwork violates federal law.

The solicitor general’s office says in a legal brief recently filed with the justices that a federal appeals court was wrong to strike down the grading practice as a violation of the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act, or FERPA. But rather than review and overturn the ruling, the court should allow the Department of Education to issue formal regulations clarifying that FERPA does not prohibit student grading and similar classroom practices, the brief argues.

“The department has determined that it will issue regulations or other formal guidance setting forth a more detailed analysis of the meaning of ‘education records’ under FERPA and the application of that term and of FERPA not only to the particular practice at issue in this case, but also to a variety of other practices,” said the solicitor general’s brief filed in Owasso Independent School District v. Falvo (Case No. 00- 1073).

FERPA, also known as the Buckley Amendment, prohibits educational institutions from releasing students’ school records without parental consent. The question in the Oklahoma case is whether allowing students to grade one another’s work constitutes the release of an educational record.

In the 1997- 98 school year, an Owasso, Okla., parent, Kristja J. Falvo, complained to the school district about the assignment of students to grade each other’s work and call out the grades in class. She said the practices embarrassed her three school-age children, who were in grades 5-7 at the time. When the district refused her request to stop the practices, Ms. Falvo filed a lawsuit claiming they violated both FERPA and her 14th Amendment right to privacy.

Last July, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit, in Denver, ruled unanimously that Ms. Falvo had no valid 14th Amendment claim, but that the grading practices violated FERPA.

The appellate panel rejected the Education Department’s view, contained in a 1993 policy letter, that students’ grading of each other’s work was not yet an education record maintained by the school district.

The 6,700-student Owasso district sought a rehearing before the full 10th Circuit court last fall. The request was denied by a 6-4 vote, which leaves the panel’s opinion as the law in that circuit, which covers Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Utah, and Wyoming.

Classroom Concerns

Meanwhile, the ruling has caused concern for school districts and teachers, who fear that it could mean several common classroom practices might be prohibited under FERPA. The National Education Association asked the Education Department to issue regulations clarifying the meaning of the law.

Jim Bradshaw, a department spokesman, said last week that officials were “considering the best means of clarifying our position.”

Under Supreme Court rulings, formal regulations would likely be accorded more deference by the federal courts than the 1993 policy letter. But such regulations might not free schools in the six states covered by the 10th Circuit from that court’s ruling against student grading.

“Until the Supreme Court addresses the issue, I think the rule announced in Falvo will be in force in the 10th Circuit regardless of any regulations from the Education Department,” said Jerry A. Richardson, a lawyer for the Owasso district.

The district appealed the 10th Circuit court’s ruling to the high court, which in March asked the Bush administration for its views on the case.

Related Tags:

A version of this article appeared in the June 20, 2001 edition of Education Week as Administration: Student-Grading Flap Not a Federal Case

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Webinar
Stronger Together: Integrating Social and Emotional Supports in an Equity-Based MTSS
Decades of research have shown that when schools implement evidence-based social and emotional supports and programming, academic achievement increases. The impact of these supports – particularly for students of color, students from low-income communities, English
Content provided by Illuminate Education
Classroom Technology Webinar Building Better Blended Learning in K-12 Schools
The pandemic and the increasing use of technology in K-12 education it prompted has added renewed energy to the blended learning movement as most students are now learning in school buildings (and will likely continue
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Webinar
A Whole Child Approach to Supporting Positive Student Behavior 
To improve student behavior, it’s important to look at the root causes. Social-emotional learning may play a preventative role.

A whole child approach can proactively support positive student behaviors.

Join this webinar to learn how.
Content provided by Panorama

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Law & Courts Supreme Court Weighs a Type of Damages Schools Can Face in Civil Rights Lawsuits
The issue involves compensation for "emotional distress," and the case holds implications for suits brought under Title IX and other laws.
6 min read
Crumpled Up Dollar Bill
iStock/Getty Images Plus
Law & Courts Opinion What the Law Says About Parents' Rights Over Schooling
The rallying cry of “parental freedom” perpetuated racial segregation, writes a legal scholar. So why would we let it dictate curriculum?
Joshua Weishart
5 min read
People hold signs and chant during a meeting of the North Allegheny School District school board regarding the district's mask policy, at at North Allegheny Senior High School in McCandless, Pa., on Aug. 25, 2021. A growing number of school board members across the U.S. are resigning or questioning their willingness to serve as meetings have devolved into shouting contests over contentious issues including masks in schools.
People at a school board meeting in late August protest the mask policy set by the North Allegheny school district in Western Pennsylvania.
Alexandra Wimley/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette via AP
Law & Courts Justice Dept. to Pay $127.5M to Parkland Massacre Victims' Families
Attorneys for 16 of the 17 killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland said they had reached a confidential monetary settlement.
Terry Spencer, Miami Herald
2 min read
In this Feb. 15, 2018, file photo, law enforcement officers block off the entrance to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., following a deadly shooting at the school.
In this Feb. 15, 2018, file photo, law enforcement officers block off the entrance to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., following a deadly shooting at the school.
Wilfredo Lee/AP Photo
Law & Courts Can Public Money Go to Religious Schools? A Divisive Supreme Court Case Awaits
The justices will weigh Maine's exclusion of religious schools from its "tuitioning" program for students from towns without high schools.
13 min read
The Carson family pictured outside Bangor Christian School in Bangor, Maine on Nov. 5, 2021.
Institute for Justice senior attorney Michael E. Bindas, left, accompanies Amy and David Carson who flank their daughter, Olivia, outside Bangor Christian Schools in Maine in early November. The Carsons are one of two families seeking to make religious schools eligible for Maine's tuition program for students from towns without high schools.
Linda Coan O’Kresik for Education Week