Thursday, November 19, 2015
NY Chief Privacy Officer makes illegal threat to charge parent to access her child's data
This letter, sent today to Tina Sciochetti, NYS Chief Interim Privacy Officer, is reprinted with Allison White's permission. Allison's testimony to the Cuomo Common Core Task Force on the need to protect student privacy is posted here. Our column on the voluminous personal student data being collected in state longitudinal databases was recently published by the Washington Post here.
It is a shame that NYSED still does not have a permanent Chief Privacy Officer or a Parent Bill of Rights developed with parent input, more than 16 months past the legal deadline. Clearly the temporary CPO in this position, with no expertise in either privacy law or civil liberties, is unqualified and incapable of of performing her critical responsibilities under the law.
Tina Sciocchetti, Chief Interim Privacy Officer
New York State Education Department
Date: November 19, 2015
via email: CPO@nysed.gov
Dear Ms. Sciocchetti:
As you know, on June 26, 2015, I made a formal FERPA request to inspect and review (“view”) my child’s personally identifiable information (PII) data contained in the New York State Longitudinal Database. It is every parent’s right under the federal law known as FERPA, as well as the New York State Personal Privacy Protection Law, passed in 1984, to be able to inspect and review this data, and to challenge and amend it if it is erroneous. Nearly one month later, on July 20, 2015, you responded by asking me to complete a notarized verification form, which I did, and which I immediately sent back to your office .
Finally, on September 25, 2015, after much emailing back and forth and a full two months after my initial request, I received a letter from you stating that if I wanted to view my child’s PII data, I would be charged an unspecified amount. You wrote:
“Collecting all of the separate data related to a single student from the Department’s various files is a lengthy process and, under state law, the requestor bears the cost of reproducing the records (see Public Officers Law §§ 87[c] and 95[c]). If you would like an estimate of the cost of this search, please let me know.”
Please note that I am requesting the opportunity to inspect and review only my own child’s records. FERPA puts the burden squarely on the State, as the repository of my child’s data, to make my child’s data accessible to me in a format that is readable and reviewable, free of charge.
Dale King, Director of the U.S. Department of Education’s Family Policy Compliance Office, made this clear when he recently ruled that a state is not permitted to charge parents any fee for accessing and reviewing their children’s data in its state longitudinal database. Director King wrote:
“….educational agencies and institutions, as well as SEAs [State educational agencies] may not charge a fee for search and retrieval of education records. See § 99.ll(b)” 
Please let me know when my request -- originally made nearly six months ago -- will be fulfilled. If you are unwilling to abide by the ruling of the Family Policy Compliance Office by affording me meaningful access to my child’s PII data without fee, I will have no choice but to file a FERPA complaint with the U.S. Department of Education.
 Letter from Dale King, US Dept of Education to Dale A.R. Erquiaga, Nevada Superintendent of Public Instruction, July 28, 2014 at: http://familypolicy.ed.gov/
sites/fpco.ed.gov/files/ Letter%20to%20Erquiaga% 20072814.pdf See also: Dad told seeing state’s records on his kids will cost him $10 grand+, Nevada Journal, April 24, 2014 at: http://nevadajournal.com/2014/ 04/24/dad-told-seeing-states- records-his-kids-will-cost- him-10-grand/ and: Federal education officials: Nevada can’t charge dad to look at children’s records; Dozens of mistakes identified in now-viewable records, , Nevada Journal, Dec.30, 2014 at: http://nevadajournal.com/2014/ 12/30/federal-education- officials-nevada-cant-charge- dad-look-childrens-records/
CC: MaryBeth Elia, New York State Commissioner of Education
New York Board of Regents
Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan, Chair, New York State Assembly Education Committee
Senator Carl Marcellino, Chair, New York State Senate Education Committee
Senator George Latimer, New York State Senate
Assemblyman Edward Ra, New York State Assembly
Assemblywoman Michelle Schimel, New York State Assembly
Senator Jack Martins, New York State Senate
Robert J. Freeman, Executive Director, New York State Committee on Open Government
Leonie Haimson, Executive Director, Class Size Matters; co-chair Parent Coalition for Student Privacy