Success Academy: Serial Violator?

May 14, 2019 by

Success Academy is in legal hot water, but no matter how scalding the evidence against them, they are not likely to get burned because no school has been meaningfully punished for violating FERPA, the law that theoretically protects student privacy information, since it was passed during the year of former President Nixon’s resignation.

And besides, Success Academy has many low friends in high places to look out for them.

This charter school network, known for its merciless discipline and exclusionary proclivities, is accused by a parent of having disclosed confidential information, without her permission, to a journalist.

The file reportedly includes detailed observations from numerous educators and a psychologist, notes about the child’s progress and other sensitive material pertaining to this seven-year-old child with autism.

The parent feels that she was persistently harassed with complaints about her child’s conduct, threatened with referral to social service agencies and that her child had been punitively demoted a grade and arbitrarily targeted for expulsion.

Of course the school’s account conflicts with the parent’s. Success Academy claims that the child’s behavior was satisfactory and that they were required by law to notify the authorities of the child’s extended and unexplained absences. Nothing they did was designed to intimidate, they say.

Success Academy has said that many times before in response to other past unrelated accusations.  It’s been opined that their history is a broken record of broken defenses.

They don’t deny they are bound by FERPA, but they brazenly take it upon themselves to create their own justification for defying it.

They claim that the restrictions imposed by FERPA became null and void when the parent publicly aired her complaint. They feel they were within their rights to fill in facts that were allegedly omitted by the parent.  Full disclosure would not only provide a balanced picture, but materially alter the appropriate finding, they feel.

Even if their version is accurate and the parent’s is flawed, is Success Academy’s unilateral determination to ignore the constraints of FERPA driven by a sound legal argument? 

They reportedly advised the parent to use a fictional name when talking to the press about her child, but she shared her child’s real name . Doing so might have been ill-advised, but does it let Success Academy off the hook?

An expert on student privacy rights quoted by Chalkbeat, the online education site, feels that the actions of Success Academy make more sense that does the federal law in this instance, but acknowledges that FERPA still prevails.

A 2015 similar case against Success Academy is still “under review” and SUNY, which oversees Success Academy, balks at saying why.

Whatever their stated reasons for doing so, whether out of good-faith or calculated misapprehension, it sounds to me like Success Academy is a violator, and a ruling should be made by a competent designated party.

But be warned: Success Academy’s  penchant for avoiding consequences over and over again is indispensable to their “success”. It’s how they made their name.

Ron Isaac

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.