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Concerns over privacy raised in judge’s decision to release sensitive information of 10 million CA students

A teacher teaches to a visually impaired students as she reads Braille.
A teacher teaches to a visually impaired students as she reads Braille.
Robertus Pudyanto/Getty Images

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In 2012, The California Concerned Parents Association and the Morgan Hill Concerned Parents Association, two parent-run non-profit organizations dedicated to promoting the rights of disabled children in the classroom filed a lawsuit against the California Department of Education (CDE) alleging that the department was failing to provide students with disabilities free and appropriate public education.

To prove their claim, the two plaintiffs requested the records of every public school student in California. Earlier this month, a California federal judge granted a “Special Master,” a court-appointed expert in cyber security and data breach prevention, access to the names, social security numbers, addresses, mental and physical assessments of every student who went to public school in California since Jan.1, 2008 to analyze that data on behalf of the two plaintiffs, roughly 10 million students.

This special master will ensure the security of information upon transfer.

Parents have until April 1st to mail a form objecting to having their child’s records released to Judge Mueller’s office. It is unclear what actions the judge will take with the opt-out forms.

The Calif. Concerned Parents Assn and the Morgan Hill Concerned Parents Association argue that the information they seek is not going to involve individual information, only aggregate data. The Calif. Concerned Parents Assn stated that they had suggested multiple scenarios in which the CDE could provide student statistics without disclosing individual students data including an an offer to receive the information with fake names, but were refused by CDE attorneys.

Critics, including many parents, are concerned that the release would jeopardize the privacy of their children.


Stephen Rosenbaum, Co-Counsel for Plaintiffs, the Morgan Hill Concerned Parents Association and a lecturer in law at UC Berkeley

Vanessa Hatch, president of the Newport-Mesa district's Harbor Council PTA