Saturday, April 22, 2017

More grounds for removal of Paladino: violating student privacy

Austin Harig and Carl Paladino
On  June 22, Commissioner MaryEllen Elia will hold a hearing on the legal petition of the Buffalo Board of Education to remove Carl Paladino from his seat on the Board.

Though Paladino has made many outrageous and even racist comments, including most recently about former President Obama and his wife Michelle, the best legal grounds for removing him, according to the Board's attorney, is for violating law or specific Board policies.  Thus the Board is focusing its appeal on the basis of Paladino's breaching the confidentiality of discussions while the Board was in Executive Session.

Yet unmentioned so far in terms of these proceedings is how last spring, Paladino violated several student privacy laws, both federal and state, in breaching the privacy of a Buffalo high school student, Austin Harig, who ran against him in the School Board elections and lost by only 132 votes.  On election night, Paladino revealed to the media that Harig had been recently suspended, which is personal student information barred from disclosure by education officials such as Paladino by the federal law known as FERPA as well as two state laws.

See the letter below that we sent yesterday to the Buffalo Board President, Dr. Nevergold, on this issue, on behalf of the Parent Coalition for Student Privacy and NYS Allies for Public Education.

Dr. Barbara Seals Nevergold
President, Buffalo Board of Education

April 21, 2017    

Dear Dr. Nevergold and the Buffalo Board of Education:

We support your efforts to remove Carl P. Paladino from the Buffalo Board of Education for official misconduct in breaching confidential discussions that occurred in the Board’s executive sessions.

We would like to add that Mr. Paladino breached the confidentiality of education records when he announced to the media that his opponent in the recent school board elections, Austin Harig, an 18-year-old high school student, had recently been “suspended from school for tardiness and not showing up while he is running for office.” [1]

This disclosure is a clear violation of student privacy, by revealing sensitive information from education records for unauthorized purposes and without the consent of the student or his parents. 

As an education official, Mr. Paladino’s disclosure of this information to the media is a violation of the federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) (20 U.S.C. § 1232g; 34 CFR Part 99) passed in 1974, as well as the NY Personal Privacy Protection Law (Public Officers Law, Article 6-A, sections 91-99) passed in 1984, and the Student Privacy law approved as part of the New York budget in 2014 (Education Law SB 6356 § 2-d. Unauthorized release of personally identifiable information.)

We urge you to include this egregious violation of student privacy and of federal and state law in your testimony and legal appeal to the Commissioner for Mr. Paladino’s removal. 

We also strongly support the thousands of Buffalo community members and New Yorkers who are calling for his removal based on his many racist statements, including his comments about the former President and First Lady. 

Yours sincerely,

Leonie Haimson, co-chair, Parent Coalition for Student Privacy
Lisa Rudley, Executive Director, NYS Allies for Public Education

Commissioner Maryellen Elia:
Chancellor Betty Rosa at  
Frank W. Miller Esq. at   

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