CDSD Statement Regarding 2016 Bus Video
Inaccurate media reports have claimed that the District spent $200,000 dollars to keep a single school bus video from public access. That’s wrong. The District’s legal issues had nothing to do with keeping a single video from public access, but instead, had everything to do with protecting the rights of families to the privacy of their students' education records,not only in this District, but throughout the Commonwealth.
The original ruling in this case unilaterally stripped all students’ education records of the protections afforded to them under federal law, not just this single video. Prior to the lower courts’ rulings in this case every student had a degree of privacy attached to images recorded of them within the school building and on school buses, their disciplinary records, their academic records, and other various records about students held by the District. The lower courts, however, erroneously removed these protections except as it related to academic records, thereby opening up public access to all other student records.
Think about what that means to families--the idea that any member of the public, for any reason, could request District video recordings and watch students as they walked through the hallways and rode on school buses, including where those students exited the bus, was a significant concern for the District. The idea that anyone, for any reason, could request videos or other records of students would be a disaster for families’ privacy interests.
The privacy concerns for all Pennsylvania students were so significant that the Pennsylvania School Boards Association joined the District’s case to fight to restore privacy protections for all students across the Commonwealth. In addition, the Supreme Court granted review of this case—which it does in only about 3% of the cases before it—twice. It was an issue that even the Supreme Court wanted to review.
The District was successful, in part, in restoring some privacy rights to Pennsylvania students by securing a reversal by the PA Supreme Court of the fundamental holding of the lower courts and a recognition that the records at issue were education records that contain personally identifiable information protected by federal law. This was a critical victory for families and the Supreme Court’s decision was vital to restoring, at least in part, privacy to all students records.
Now, even the Office of Open Records recognizes that videos and other educational records kept by a school district, are educational records protected by FERPA and that they are not automatically subject to disclosure at the whim of any requester.
The Administration is thankful for the support of the Central Dauphin School Board and the School Boards Association during this process to secure privacy rights for families and students.