The Wrightslaw Way

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Just When You Think You’ve Heard it All…

07/12/10
by Wrightslaw

Can special ed students have their math/artwork displayed in the trophy case of a school?

I posted the state standards that went with a math assignment, my name (as instructor), and displayed samples of work from 11 of my students.  Another sped teacher told me to take the work down, I was violating “confidentiality”.  If this is a matter of confidentiality, then ALL photos must be removed -  sports, band, any activities – and other school or art work displays.

Confidentiality is Not the Issue, Discrimination Is

To not display their work, because they have a disability, opens you and the school system up to a claim of discrimination against a person with a disability.

The awards or work of those “regular ed” students is displayed, but not the work of the “spec ed” students.

Pete says,Someone needs to acquire some common sense.”

Imagine the anger of their parents when they learn that the work of the other students is proudly displayed. The work of their own children is not displayed because their child is viewed as having “a disability.”

You are correct.  If your students’ work must come down, so must all other students’ work, regular and special ed.

At the same time, if a parent does not want their child’s work displayed, then you would want to grant their wish.

I suggest an email to the parents that you are planning to post their child’s work, but that another staff member expressed concern because the children have a disability and that it might be a violation of confidentiality. If a parent does or does not want their child’s work displayed, please contact you and advise of their preference.

For those that go silent, send a second email to confirm receipt of the first.

There is always someone out there who will complain, be it a parent or a fellow educator. Damned if you do and damned if you don’t.

However, in my opinion, I think the wrath will come down if their work is not posted.

Taking it even further, with parent’s consent, I think they would be proud to even have their child’s photo displayed adjacent to the work!

Confidentiality is not the issue.  Discrimination with a potential Section 504 lawsuit and lots of negative press in the local newspaper is the issue.

Pam agrees,The idea that a teacher cannot display artwork or math assignments by kids with disabilities is absurd and dangerous.

Refusing to display papers / art by students with disabilities, while displaying papers/ art by non-disabled students, is discrimination.

The issue of student confidentiality is overblown and appears to be misunderstood by many educators and administrators. In 2002, in Owasso v. Falvo, the US Supreme Court ruled that students who attend public schools have extremely limited rights to confidentiality. The citation is Owasso Independent School Dist. No. I-011 v. Falvo, 122 S.Ct. 934, 534 U.S. 426.

A federal law, the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), protects education records of all students (with or without disabilities) The purposes of FERPA are twofold: to ensure that parents have access to their children’s educational records, and to protect the privacy rights of parents and children by limiting access to these records without parental consent.

FERPA deals with:

  • access to educational records
  • parental right to inspect and review records
  • amendment of records
  • destruction of records

FERPA applies to all agencies and institutions that receive federal funds, including elementary and secondary schools, colleges, and universities. The statute is in the United States Code at 20 U. S. C. 1232g and 1232h. The regulations are in the Code of Federal Regulations at 34 C.F.R Part 99. Both are included in Wrightslaw: Special Education Law, 2nd Edition. http://www.wrightslaw.com/bks/selaw2/selaw2.htm

You can learn more about confidentiality and privacy here: http://www.wrightslaw.com/info/ferpa.index.htm

Thanks for taking the time to write and allowing us to set the record straight!

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9 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Morning 04/04/12 at 10:14 pm

    Nancy, I have to agree with you. I think, in the beat interests of the child, it may best to remove that child from that school district and pay for a private school that can meet the child’s needs. It may not be worth the hassle and the games. Students can be put in difficult position with school staff who refuse to teach them with kindness and joy. If you can afford it, take the child out of an adverserial system.

  • 2 Jana 04/04/12 at 9:52 pm

    I don’t get why thts is a common practice. ALL artwork and papers must be shown. If a teacher does not, then the parents needs to put the work of their child who has a disability on that board and announce in front of Everybody this person “Descriminates!”

    The teacher won’t do this again.

  • 3 Nancy S 04/04/12 at 3:06 pm

    FERPA is a joke. Please do not quote it as if anyone would actually care. The school my son attended sent our family and attorney a report that listed every child in the school receiving spec ed services and it listed their names, hrs received, disability, notes, etc. Nothing happened. I called the superintendent. No one cares about the confidentiality of our children. They sent us another report with the names “redacted”. A joke, the cattle was already out of the gate at that point. You can’t take back that which you let out. Then if that wasn’t bad enough, the county did the same thing when they gave us a copy of another child”s PT report. Then they got mad at us as if we made the error. We can file complaints but nothing will happen just like with all of the other IEP and 504 violations. We chose to pay for a private school.

  • 4 annette 04/04/12 at 1:20 pm

    thats something else< I got in trouble for not having ENOUGH of my kids work up.. had to have CURRENT work of THAT week tied in with the standard being taught, I worked with kids that functioned at a toddler level teaching 1st grade curriculm to toddlers.. made for an interesting time,,,

  • 5 Kari 04/04/12 at 12:08 pm

    Isn’t this solved easily and without drama simply by including a permission slip along with the myriad other pieces of paper one has to fill out for their child at the beginning of the year? At our school, ALL children come home with a slip that asks permission to take pictures, use pictures in the yearbook and around campus and on the web site; if it’s gotten to the point of silly, an extra line including children’s work could easily be added, thus solving the problem and freeing up our teachers to be worrying about REAL problems, like how they’re going to cram everything they need to teach in less and less time and STILL manage to drill in everything for the stupid required testings.

  • 6 Joanna 04/04/12 at 11:44 am

    We had a situation where the high school year book staff excluded the Best Buddies Club from campus club photos because they thought it would breach confidentiality! This happened 2 years in a row! Boy was I steamed!

    Finally with push from the teacher, advisors and myself we got their photo included in my son’s yearbook for his senior year.

  • 7 Mary 07/22/10 at 12:03 pm

    My son came home the last week of school with a piece of art he was proud of. He asked if I liked it and after I complimented the piece. He threw it down saying my work never gets put on display.

    We had noticed that at open house. There were multiple displays of work but only one contained my son’s work and it was displayed at FLOOR level. No other display had any work placed so low. I later wished I had taken photos. This was after 6 hours of meetings on why wasn’t he wasn’t motivated and working as hard as the teacher wanted him to work.

    For anyone who thinks the kids don’t notice, the kids do notice. Not displaying their work is the same as saying you aren’t good enough on a daily basis.

  • 8 Lisa 07/16/10 at 10:07 am

    This is the same argument SDs like to use when SpEd parents want to observe a SpEd classroom (a class w/their child already in it). SDs, like ours in NYS, throw down the Confidentiality Card, yet other parents in other ‘typical’ classrooms are invited — no, begged — to volunteer as room helpers with no mention of ‘confidentiality.’ Such a scam and totally discriminatory twd SpEd parents.

  • 9 Sharon 07/13/10 at 7:43 am

    Just a side point – if a teacher is going to display work – of ANY student, it should be carefully checked for errors and the corrected copy should be displayed. If a child’s name is on the work to be displayed and it is riddled with errors (and I have seen this many times), that identifies the child as one with “problems” and it becomes common knowledge to those viewing the work. Even if it requires additional time before the work is presentation ready, make sure it will not prove to be an embarrassment before displaying it.

    Sharon