Today, Parents United for Public Schools sent the below email to our elected School Board members raising concerns about two new ways in which the Oakland Education Fund (“Ed Fund”) has access to student and family information, and further is acting as “gatekeeper” to parents who volunteer in their children’s school. This year, when four of our seven school board seats are up for election, the Ed Fund’s close ties with organizations active in funding and pushing candidates for election, while also being given access to unprecedented parent and family information, is concerning. Parents have the right to opt-out of providing student Directory Information to the Ed Fund by submitting their intention in writing to the district, and parents who are concerned about this unprecedented use of student information are encouraged to do so. A suggested “opt-out” form which tracks the district’s own form is provided as a guide, below the letter.
Parents have contacted us with concerns about two items at the outset of this school year which we would like to share with you and request information and feedback regarding same.
WHY IS STUDENT DIRECTORY INFORMATION BEING SHARED WITH ED FUND?
At registration this year, for the first time, parents were notified that OUSD would be sharing personal student information with the Oakland Education Fund (“Ed Fund”) unless parents “opt-out” (which the form indicates “most parents do not choose” to do). In years past, the Directory Information was shared with “… qualified individuals or groups, such as official parent-teacher organizations, college recruiters, or employers.” Parents who wanted their information shared with their official PTA organization often chose not to opt out. Many parents did not realize that this year the Ed Fund would now have access to that information in addition to their PTA, and now that they do realize, they are concerned with how this happened and what it means for their student’s privacy.
While we appreciate that the District identified the Ed Fund as a recipient, it does not anywhere state why the Ed Fund is now granted access to personal student information. A review of Board of Education records does not turn up any discussion or approval of such a change. Ed Fund is not one of the “qualified” groups identified above (PTA, College recruiters or employers), therefore it is completely unclear why the Ed Fund is now authorized to receive Student Directory Information.
We would appreciate an explanation for parents about how and why this happened, a disclosure of any contracts or agreements between OUSD and the Ed Fund regarding Student Directory Information, an explanation of what the information will be used for and restrictions, if any, placed on Ed Fund in using or sharing this information with others. In addition, we request that this Board notify the Superintendent or his designee that given the confusion arising from the unexpected inclusion of a private third party in the Directory disclosure “opt-out” form that the District be prohibited from sharing this information with Ed Fund until such time as the District can answer the above questions AND give parents, with notice from the District, a set amount of additional time to “opt-out” as required under your own Board Policy 5125.1:
Notification to Parents/Guardians
At the beginning of each school year, all parents/guardians/caregivers shall be notified as to the categories of directory information the school or district plans to release and the recipients of the information. The notification shall also inform parents/guardians/caregivers of their right to refuse to let the district designate any or all types of information as directory information and the period of time within which a parent/guardian/caregiver must notify the district in writing that he/she does not want a certain category of information designated as directory information. (Education Code 49063, 49073; 34 CFR 99.37)
WHY IS THE ED FUND MANAGING THE OUSD VOLUNTEER PROGRAM?
Also new this year is that the Ed Fund is apparently managing access to school volunteering and has sent out information to parents which is confusing and misleading about the steps that parents must take in order to volunteer in OUSD schools. Again, a review of Board of Education records does not turn up an approved contract or agreement for the Ed Fund to take over this function which has been led in the past by Be a Mentor (a company with experience in managing volunteer systems) or by the District itself. Having the Ed Fund, a third party, manage this system gives them access again to information about OUSD families and may act as a deterrent to parents who would like to volunteer at their child’s school, but for whom having the Ed Fund have access to information is a concern. In addition, the Ed Fund website and information sent to parents incorrectly leads parents to believe that fingerprinting and a background check with the FBI are required to volunteer. Further, the Ed Fund requests employer information to volunteer, something that seems to be totally unnecessary and both concerning and off-putting to parents, and could effectively prevent some parents from being willing to volunteer at all. Rather than making the system more welcoming, this “gate-keeping” is serving as a deterrent to volunteerism in the classroom, something that we know can make a big difference in student success.
We request that the Board disclose, or direct the Superintendent’s office to do so, the basis upon which the Ed Fund has been granted oversight of the volunteer program, whether a contract or agreement was entered into and approved by the Board, and also the amount being paid to the Ed Fund for this service as well as any restrictions on use of the information gathered by the Ed Fund and safeguards for parents of their personal information. We also request that the Board direct the Superintendent’s office to notify parents that they do not need to provide employer information nor be fingerprinted to volunteer in their own child’s classroom or on their own child’s field trip, but should submit their negative tb test results directly to their school. Parents should not be required to share data with the private Ed Fund to volunteer in their child’s school.
We would appreciate a response in writing as soon as possible which we will then share with parents across the District.
Parents United for Public Schools
SUGGESTED “OPT-OUT” LANGUAGE FOR PARENTS:
Decline Release of Directory Information to Oakland Education Fund ONLY
I do not want the District to release “directory information” for my child to Oakland Education Fund only. By choosing this option, I am stating that my child’s “directory information” may be released to other “qualified individuals or groups, such as official parent-teachers organizations, college recruiters, or employers” as stated in the OUSD Opt-Out form provided at my child’s registration. This form supersedes any form which I may have signed previously this school year.
Decline Release of Directory Information to Oakland Education Fund and all others
I do not want the District to release “directory information” for my child to Oakland Education Fund OR to any other individual or group. By choosing this option, I am stating that my child’s “directory information” may NOT be released to ANY “qualified individuals or groups, such as official parent-teachers organizations, college recruiters, or employers” NOR may it be released to the Oakland Education Fund as stated in the OUSD Opt-Out form provided at my child’s registration. This form supersedes any form which I may have signed previously this school year. Student’s Name:
Antwan Wilson: superintendent@ousd,org