La Cañada parents react to court ruling involving student data


Local parents are expressing concerns about the possible release of millions of K-12 public school student records, after a Sacramento judge recently ruled in favor of two parent groups suing the California Department of Education over special education issues.

La Cañada Unified School District officials posted a notice online at with information about the April 2012 lawsuit filed against the CDE by the Morgan Hill Concerned Parents Assn. and the Concerned Parent Assn.

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It explained how the two nonprofit plaintiffs alleged widespread, systemic non-compliance by local education agencies with special education laws, and were seeking access to student records in CDE’s databases and network drives to prove their case.

“[LCUSD] was not involved in the lawsuit and is not the subject of any of the suit’s allegations,” the online statement read. “However, as a part of this lawsuit, CDE has been ordered by the United States District Court to release all data it has collected on general and special education students since Jan. 1, 2008.”

The notice also included a link to a form parents and guardians could submit to U.S. District Judge Kimberly J. Mueller, who delivered the ruling, before an April 1 deadline to object to the disclosure of their children’s personal records.

In online and social media forums, parents conveyed confusion about whether an objection meant a family could opt out of the data release, and guessed at the implications of such a wide-scale disclosure and what kind of legal precedent it might set.

La Cañada resident and attorney Deborah Parker said she learned of the ruling after a friend mentioned it on her Facebook page. A mother of two, one of whom receives special education services, she had a number of concerns.

“Why do they need identifying information?” said Parker, who’d read documents from the legal proceedings and left a phone message for Judge Mueller. “How far does this go, and where does it stop?”

According to the U.S. District Court’s own notice of disclosure, “examples of information … include name, Social Security number, home address, demographics, course information, statewide assessment results, teacher demographics, program information, behavior and discipline information, progress reports, special education assessment plans, special education assessments/evaluations, Individual Education Programs (IEPs), records pertaining to health, mental health and medical information, student statewide identifiers (SSID), attendance statistics, information on suspensions and expulsions and results on state tests.”

Peter Tira, a California Department of Education spokesman, said Friday no information has yet been released, and the department was working diligently to prevent the disclosure of what it estimates could affect more than 10 million students.

“(Parents) should be absolutely concerned,” he said. “We’re concerned, and we’ve been fighting it with every legal means available to us.”

Tira said the court has appointed data experts to analyze whether the plaintiffs were able to receive, handle and keep private that amount of information. He clarified that while there is currently no way to opt out of the disclosure, parents and guardians with concerns should file objection forms.

“It is, right now, the only vehicle families have available to them to protest the release of that data,” he said.

Parker urged other parents and guardians to submit objection forms and do whatever they could to advocate for the protection of their children’s information. Meanwhile, Tira said the CDE would continue to halt the disclosure.

“We’re not throwing in the towel here,” the spokesman said. “We’re going to do everything we can to fight this.”

For updates on the lawsuit and data release information, visit and look under the “What’s New” section.


Sara Cardine,

Twitter: @SaraCardine