Deborah Grill testimony to the SRC – January 21, 2016

Debbie Grill SRC 1-21-16

Good evening. My name is Deborah Grill. I am a retired teacher, school librarian and the proud parent of a Philadelphia public school graduate.

Since you are planning on converting more neighborhood public schools into Renaissance charters, what about student data privacy in neighborhood Renaissance charter schools, which will be the default schools for neighborhood children?

If the Renaissance charter company’s privacy policy differs from the school districts, are Renaissance charter operators obliged to follow the District’s policy?

While the District’s student privacy policy is available to the public on its website, the student privacy policies for Great Oaks Charter, Global Leadership Academy, Universal or Young Scholars are not available on theirs. Mastery’s policy, however, is available, and I have attached a copy of it to my testimony. Since Mastery has the bulk of Renaissance charters I will speak to that.

According to District policy on directory information (which includes a student’s name, address, telephone number, date and place of birth, honors, awards, date of attendance), parents can request in writing that the district not disclose that information to outside persons or organizations.

Mastery similarly allows parents to request in writing that Mastery not disclose directory information; however, their written request must include a disclaimer which states:

“except where the disclosure is to the financial funders and supporters of Mastery. (I recognize that Mastery relies on the financial funding and support provided by outside organization for the operation of the school.)” 1

This means that Mastery has a right to distribute a student’s personally-identifiable information to outside persons or organizations that contribute money to the charter operator or who support Mastery in some other unspecified manner.

Nowhere on its website or in its handbook does Mastery list who their funders or supporters are; so, there is no way to determine to whom this information goes. Nowhere on their website does Mastery define what makes a person or organization a supporter.   Nowhere on its website does Mastery explain why its funders and supporters need information on individual students in order to supply funding or support. How are parents told who the funders and supporters are and which information is released to them? And, why can’t parents have their child’s personal information withheld? What happens to them if they don’t allow sharing?

There is no mention of the degree to which a charter is required to maintain student privacy on the District’s Renaissance School Initiative Policy webpage, although it does outline accountability provisions. To restate my original question, since Renaissance charters are a catchment area’s neighborhood school, is it correct to assume that the District would make every effort to see that the privacy of student in Renaissance charters is protected comparable to the privacy of students in a District neighborhood school?

[1] Mastery Charter Parents’ and Students’ Privacy Rights to Student Information and Education Records