WASHINGTON – Today, Education and Labor Committee Chairman Robert C. “Bobby” Scott (VA-03) sent a letter to the Department of Education seeking an investigation into reports that a Florida public school district transmitted student records to the local sheriff’s office so that the sheriff’s office could develop a list of students “destined for a life of crime.”
In the letter, Chairman Scott notes that the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) explicitly prohibits schools from disclosing student records to third parties without parental permission. He also raises serious concern about how this abuse of power disproportionately impacts students of color, who commonly receive harsher punishments than their white classmates for similar offenses.
“Data from the Civil Rights Data Collection has established that schools suspend or expel Black and Latino students more frequently than their white peers and more than half ‘of students who were involved in school-related arrests or referred to law enforcement are Latino or Black,’” wrote Chairman Scott. “Research indicates that such disproportionality is not due to more frequent misbehavior by Black and Latino students but is due in part to discriminatory practices. Therefore, any law enforcement system that uses FERPA-protected school discipline data to identify children as potential criminals would not only be illegal, but also racially biased.”
Reporting further indicates that this sheriff’s office has used a similar “intelligence” algorithm to identify county residents it believes are likely to break the law. Former sheriff’s officers who implemented this policy have publicly stated that their supervisors ordered officers to contact individuals on this list and “[m]ake their lives miserable until they move or sue.”
In the letter, Chairman Scott notes that these abuses highlight the real dangers of this form of policing, especially as applied to students. The Chairman also requests the Department investigate the school district’s disclosure of student data and takes steps to ensure that all school districts are appropriately, and lawfully, managing student information.
The full letter can be found here.
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