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 Article of Interest - FERPA and Home School

Bill in Congress Seeks Privacy for Home-Schoolers' Data
by Natalie Y. Moore, September 5, 2002, Pioneer Press
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Freshman U.S. Rep. Mark Kennedy, R-Minn., said he would introduce a bill this week that would tighten the privacy of home-schoolers' data.

Closing the loophole would protect home-school records nationwide, including in Minnesota, which classifies the information as public. Kennedy is seeking to change the language in the federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act.

"We should have the same type of protection for all students. I don't think this exclusion was meant to be," Kennedy said at a Wednesday news conference in St. Paul surrounded by home-school families.

In 2000 the Minnesota Department of Administration ruled that data collected on home-schoolers by public schools is public because the records are not expressly exempted in state law. The home-school community recently learned of the loophole and is trying to fight it while securing the same privacy afforded to public school students.

The ruling has caused confusion and is applied inconsistently in Minnesota school districts; some treat the data as public while others don't. The law requires districts to collect data on home-schoolers, ranging from immunization documentation to report cards in some cases.

Last month state Sen. Dave Knutson, R-Burnsville, said he intended to introduce a similar bill in the state Legislature. But Kennedy said the issue is larger than Minnesota.

"This is a national problem. We ought to protect across the country. This would treat all students the same. You could solve on the state level, but this should clear up confusion across the country," Kennedy said.

Kennedy's bill wouldn't prevent gathering data on home-schoolers but rather disseminating it. In Wisconsin, the state collects home-school data but considers it private.

The congressman hopes to pass the bill this year, but it has a lot of hurdles before it passes. Republican leadership in the House could fast track the bill for Kennedy, who is seeking re-election, but the bill still must pass the Democrat-controlled Senate.

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