I talked with a group of teachers about two tough confidentiality issues this week. One involved a teacher who shared a story with her neighbor about a rough student. She included names and identifying details. The neighbor then shared the story on Facebook. It quickly turned into quite a disaster. The other issue involved an assistant principal who requested that a counselor provide him with confidential information regarding students who were pregnant.
As I talked through these issues with my colleagues, we agreed that some of the typical relationship principles applied. As an administrator in each of these cases, it would be important to have good relationships with the parties involved, to communicate clearly, and to be willing to ask for help when needed. In addition to these, two other common threads show up in these issues:
- Confidentiality – One of our key responsibilities as educators is to protect student information and keep it private. Conversations around privacy and confidentiality have come up several times recently and the issues seems to get more complicated as technology advances. We need to work hard to make sure that we (and the educators with whom we interact) are protecting students’ and families’ confidential information. FERPA (The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act) was established in 1974 to protect the privacy and confidentiality of students and families. This is a big deal. I have heard horror stories about student information getting out and causing quite a mess. We need to work diligently to prevent this breach of privacy.
- Training – We should be regularly reminding the educators with whom we work of the seriousness of student privacy and confidentiality. This can happen through things like a quick training or discussion at a staff meeting or a staff development day, an occasional story shared via email or in person, and more formal district, state, or federal training opportunities.