Frequently Asked Questions
Stemming from recent incidents of intolerance at Albany High School and throughout the District
Dated: April 4, 2017
The Board of Education and I hear the community’s questions regarding discipline policies in general and action that is now being taken regarding Albany High School matters in specific. On behalf of the community, we gathered the questions being raised and, in consultation with our legal counsel, are providing responses below. I understand that you want detailed information, and that you feel lack of specificity implies a lack of action, but I assure you that is not the case. We are obligated to follow the law, and failing to follow all legal timelines and prescribed protocols can further complicate an already difficult situation.
Q: How are the students that posted the offensive photos on social media being disciplined?
A: While we understand the desire to see that there are meaningful consequences for student misconduct, particularly when the behavior is not only offensive but hurtful, the law strictly prohibits school officials from discussing confidential student information, including grades, attendance, etc., as well as discipline.
Q: Will the students that posted the offensive photos on social media be allowed to return to school?
A: Again, that question addresses student discipline as well as attendance which information is strictly confidential under the law and cannot be discussed.
Q: Why won’t you share information regarding student discipline?
A: Under state and federal law, notably including the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), personally identifiable student information is strictly confidential and generally may not be disclosed without written parent consent.
Q: What is personally identifiable student information?
A: Personally identifiable student information is information maintained by the school district. This includes both direct or indirect identifiers. Identifiers are facts that can be used to distinguish or trace an individual student’s identity either directly or indirectly through linkages with other information. For example, a student’s name is a direct identifier. Describing specific physical characteristics, team or club affiliations, etc. are indirect identifiers.
Q: If you can’t talk about student discipline, how will we know that something has been done to address the behavior that is harming our school community?
A: Good question. Lack of detail simply means that we are observing our legal obligation to protect student privacy. It should not be interpreted to mean that we aren’t taking action; we are.
Q: How can we be sure that our children are safe at school?
A: We are committed to campus safety. If any student does not feel safe at school, we urge them or you to bring it to our attention. One of our surest tools to ensure your student’s safety is their voice. We encourage our parent partners to speak with their children about their school experience, and contact us if you have a concerns.
Q: How will the school ensure that the students targeted will be safe when or if the perpetrators return to school?
A: There is no single solution to this question as practically speaking, we would work with each child to create a plan to help them feel safe at school.
Q: Can a school district discipline students for what they post and/or comment on through social media?
A: The law limits school authority to impose discipline for private conduct that occurs off campus, including online actions except in cases of speech that seriously disrupts the school environment or where they constitute harassment, threats, bullying and/or intimidation; however, there is no bright line test and each situation must be evaluated on a case by case basis.