Fulton Public Schools self-reporting federal law violations

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FULTON - Fulton School District Superintendent Dr. Jaque Cowherd reports the school district is self-reporting federal law violations to the Family Policy Compliance Office of the US Department of Education.

"We had a complete legal review done of the activity and the questions and our counsel advised that we'd violated some federal privacy laws," Cowherd said. "We made the decision last night to go ahead and self-report those violations to the US Department of Education, which has been done this morning." 

In a letter to Fulton Middle School parents Sunday, FPS says it will also be reviewing policy JDHA with administrators.

FMS gym teachers conducted an activity before spring break called "Claim It". Gym teachers were to name a category to the students and the students that identify with those categories were asked to move across the room to reveal things about themselves to the rest of the class. The school provided a copy of the activity prompts to KOMU 8 News, which can be found here

The activity included categories that asked students whether someone in their family is currently serving time in prison, if the student or someone in their family has ever been raped or sexually molested, and if they'd ever been physically abused. Some parents say the questions their children were asked were inappropriate.

Initially, the Fulton School District sent out a letter apologizing to parents on behalf of Dr. Cowherd but in a statement to KOMU 8 News the school district claimed it was part of the Fulton Middle School's health curriculum. 

The policy JDHA addresses student privacy issues and reiterates the federal law that:

"In accordance with law, no student, as part of any program wholly or partially funded by the U.S.
Department of Education, shall be required to submit to a survey, analysis or evaluation (hereafter
referred to as "protected information survey") that reveals any of the following information without
written consent of a parent:
1. Political affiliations or beliefs of the student or the student's parent.
2. Mental or psychological problems of the student or the student's family.
3. Sex behavior or attitudes.
4. Illegal, antisocial, self-incriminating or demeaning behavior.
5. Critical appraisals of other individuals with whom respondents have close family
6. Legally recognized privileged or analogous relationships, such as those of lawyers,
physicians and ministers.
7. Religious practices, affiliations or beliefs of the student or the student's parent.
8. Income other than that required by law to determine eligibility for participation in a program
or for receiving financial assistance under such program."

"In our policy JHDA, there are eight sections of protected rights, and we probably violated seven of those, maybe all eight," Cowherd said. 

The most recent letter to FMS parents listed things the school will initiate starting Monday: 

  • Additional counselors will be available at FMS as needed for the next few days to address student concerns. 
  • The FMS faculty will be advised to allow students to see a counselor if needed.
  • At the beginning of the school day on Monday, an announcement will be made stating: Regarding the Claim It activity, if you need to see a counselor today, please ask your teacher to be excused from class.
  • FPS is self-reporting federal law violations to the Family Policy Compliance Office of the US Department of Education. 
  • A memo was sent to all District staff directing them to review Policy JHDA regarding student privacy issues. 
  • Administration in all buildings will hold faculty meetings this week to review Policy JHDA.
  • For the remainder of the year, FMS PE and Health activities will be reviewed the week prior to implementation by the Assistant Superintendent, Dr. Suzanne Hull.

"We've worked through the self-reporting process. We've also worked with the middle school faculty on where the error was, and that's the individuals involved and the faculty as a whole," Cowherd said. "We've asked that we review everything they're doing." 

The letter stated FPS is sorry for the stress this activity has caused.