With less than a month before Memphis parents must decide whether to share their children’s information with charter schools, the Shelby County Schools district is ramping up its efforts to get them to say no.
Shelby County Schools used robocalls to tell parents to opt out of having their children’s information shared with charter schools, a district spokeswoman confirmed Friday. That’s on top of sending home the forms that allow parents to block their information from being shared.
On one of the calls, Kelvin Hart, a Shelby County Schools assistant principal, informed parents of their rights and exhorted them to block their children’s information from being shared.
“Parents, we do not want to lose any students to charter schools, so please, ma’am and sir, fill out the form that was sent out today or go online and opt out of information sharing,” Hart said.
The calls come as the district, along with Nashville public schools, is in a deadlock with the State Department of Education over the information-sharing.
Hart’s messaging gets to the heart of the conflict: Charter leaders say they will use the contact information to make parents aware of their school options. District leaders say granting the information request would give charters an unfair advantage to recruit students away from their schools; they argued that federal privacy rules let them decide who gets that information.
To learn what information is at stake and how it’s used, read our in-depth explainer on student data sharing and FERPA.
The state’s attorney general sided with the charter schools, and Shelby County Schools was on the hook to hand over the data this week. But it whiffed the deadline, drawing a firm reprimand from state education officials.
The robo-calls suggest that the district does plan to turn over the information, but not until after Oct. 22, the deadline it set for parents to opt out of sharing their child’s information by submitting a form in print or online.
The battle over information is part of a history of tiffs between Shelby County Schools and Green Dot, a California-based operator that runs five schools in Memphis, most under the state-run Achievement School District. Last summer, the charter organization was outraged over alleged retention tactics from Shelby County Schools that were spreading misinformation, which the district denied.
Here’s the full transcript of Hart’s robo-call, or you can listen below:
Hello parents, this is Kelvin Hart calling with a very important message. A recently passed Tennessee law requires public school districts to release student directory information to charter schools and charter organizations if it is requested. This would include things like students names, ages, addresses, emails, phone numbers and dates of attendance. We want you to know that you have a choice in whether or not your child’s information is shared with charter schools. The Family Education Rights and Privacy Act, also known as FERPA, gives families the right to opt out of this information sharing process. And Shelby County Schools will not share any child’s information under this law if a parent opts out by October 22, 2017. It is simple to opt out. Just complete the form that was sent home today or go to the SCS website and complete the form online. Remember the deadline to opt out of information sharing is October 22, 2017. Parents, we do not want to lose any students to charter schools, so please, ma’am and sir, fill out the form that was sent out today or go online and opt out of information sharing. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact Ridgeway High School.
You can view the district opt out forms below or online: