UPDATED: Report card fiasco causes confusion for El Roble families

A number of El Roble families got a surprise last week when they opened their kid’s report card and found another student’s marks printed on the opposite side of the grade sheet.

The occurrence was inadvertent and due to a clerical error, according to Claremont Unified School District Assistant Superintendent of Educational Services Bonnie Bell. The double-sided report card was sent to about half of the students at the local intermediate school. The other half of El Roble students did not receive a report card at the scheduled time.

As is the case in so many office snafus, it started with some tricky technology. The printer usually used to create report cards was acting up, so the person tasked with printing the grade sheets sent the documents to a remote printer, according to Ms. Bell. Unbeknownst to the staffer, the remote printer was set to double-sided mode.

Perhaps the oversight would have been caught if report cards were stuffed into envelopes by hand. The process, however, is automatic. When a notification is sent to students’ homes, district personnel take the batches as they come off the printer and place them directly into a folding and stuffing machine.

Inadvertent or not, the resulting disclosure is in violation of the federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). The law requires that schools ask for written consent before disclosing a student’s personal information to individuals other than a parent or guardian. Protected records include report cards and their accompanying teacher comments, transcripts, class schedules, disciplinary records and contact and family information.

The district became aware of the error on June 19, the day the report cards were received or, in the case of half of El Roble’s students, the day they did not arrive.

The COURIER became aware of the situation because a staff member has two boys at El Roble. One of the boys received a double-sided report card and the other did not get his grades at all. Luckily, since they share the same last name, the double-sided report card contained the two brothers’ grades. No harm, no foul for this family. However, the local newspaper received several phone calls about the situation from El Roble parents and also followed a vigorous Facebook thread about the mix-up.

The district acted quickly after learning of the error.

El Roble families were contacted by telephone and email and apprised of the situation. Those who received report cards were asked to destroy them and were notified that a corrected copy of their child’s report card would be forthcoming shortly. New report cards were printed and mailed out at what Ms. Bell said was little expense, given that the district benefits from bulk mail rates.

In some cases where FERPA has been violated, high schools and colleges have opted to notify the Department of Education of the oversight. CUSD contacted their attorneys, asking what they should do, and were told it was not necessary to bring the situation to the DOE’s attention.

The  problem has been remedied to the best of the district’s ability, they said. Some struggling students, however, may be nervous about who, besides their parents, has been privy to their low marks.

It is the first time that the district has violated student privacy laws in this way since she came to the district four years ago, Ms. Bell said.

—Sarah Torribio



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