Supreme court hears Springfield schools’ public records case

From The Dayton Daily News

It could be three to six months before the Supreme Court of Ohio makes a decision in a 2014 public records case involving Springfield City School District and nonprofit School Choice Ohio, but both sides got to make oral arguments before the justices on Tuesday.

The court’s decision could have an impact on how much discretion school districts have under federal privacy and state public record laws to decide the fate of their student data.

The case centers on a public records request made by School Choice Ohio in 2014 for Springfield student names, addresses and other contact information, which the district denied citing the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).

The advocacy group routinely makes such requests to districts statewide for their student directory information and then uses it to contact parents about scholarship opportunities — sometimes called vouchers — that students in low-performing districts can use to attend private schools.

The SCSD board of education changed its records policy in 2013, saying that no student information would be designated as “directory information” — student data that is exempt from FERPA and becomes public record. Instead, the district sends out a consent form at the beginning of each school year, giving parents the option whether to release certain information about their student to school partners or not.

In court Tuesday, School Choice Ohio’s lawyer argued that the district cannot pick and choose what entities it releases information to once that consent form is signed.

“Ohio law does not give a superintendent or a school board that discretion,” David Movius said, pointing out that the district gave student names and other information to several other organizations it considers “friends” while only denying School Choice’s request because it sees the group as a “foe.”

“There is a basic issue of fairness here,” Movius told the News-Sun.

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