This morning, the Ohio Supreme Court heard arguments in School Choice Ohio Inc. v. Cincinnati Public School District and Springfield City School District. School Choice Ohio (SCO) filed the lawsuit after the Springfield City School District denied SCO’s request for student names and addresses. In 2013, Springfield adopted a policy that stopped student names, addresses, phone numbers and other identifying data from being designated as “directory information” under the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) and required parents to “opt in” to the release of the data. Springfield then denied SCO’s request on the basis of their policy.
SCO’s lawsuit argues that FERPA does not prohibit release of the requested information, and the district is therefore required to release it under state law. In response, Springfield argues that while FERPA allows districts to release directory information, it does not require districts to make such information available.
In February 2015, OSBA’s legal assistance fund (LAF) filed an amicus brief arguing that school districts must retain necessary discretion to determine how to best educate students and protect their privacy rights. Springfield, it argued, should retain discretion to determine for itself whether it maintains any directory information. Further, LAF argues, “school districts must possess the authority to enact policies that, within their sound discretion, are for the betterment of their own district.” The brief also cites FERPA’s purpose as a privacy statute, rather than a disclosure statute.
Keep an eye out for further developments on this and other LAF cases. If you’d like to discuss LAF membership or potential assistance LAF could provide your district, please contact OSBA’s division of legal services.