US SUPREME COURT agrees to hear paper-swapping case - NewsOn6.com - Tulsa, OK - News, Weather, Video and Sports - KOTV.com |

US SUPREME COURT agrees to hear paper-swapping case

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TULSA, Okla. (AP) _ The Supreme Court agreed Monday to decide if the common schoolroom practice of ``swapping papers'' violates students privacy rights.

Sometime next year the court will hear the appeal of Owasso Public Schools in a privacy case that the district says raises doubts about other everyday school customs, such as announcing honor rolls and exhibiting kindergarten artwork.

``We're talking about how kids are taught in the classrooms of the nation,'' said Jerry A. Richardson, attorney for the suburban Tulsa district. ``This is not something that's unique to Owasso or Oklahoma.''

Kristja J. Falvo sued Owasso schools in 1998, alleging her three children were embarrassed by the practices of students grading each other's work and calling out grades to the teacher.

A federal judge sided with the district, but the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver ruled that the grading practice violated the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act.

The act prohibits educational institutions from ``permitting the release of education records of students ... without the written consent of their parents.'' The appeals court found that grades students record on homework or tests and then report to the teacher constitute ``education records.''

``Our argument is if the governmental agency by law is prohibited from disclosing the information, then they're prohibited from disclosing it when they are collecting the information,'' said Will Wright, attorney for the Falvos.

Wright said if such grades are not protected, that means other test scores, such as college entrance exams, also are not protected.

Owasso school officials had argued that privacy wasn't an issue because teachers gave students a choice of not reporting their grades aloud. The officials also said student-graded assignments often were not recorded.

Even placing a gold star on a student's artwork could possibly be considered disclosure under the federal appeals court decision, Richardson said.

``And the fact your star quarterback is not playing this week _ is that a disclosure when the fact he's not playing reveals he didn't having passing grades this week?'' he said.

Superintendent Dale Johnson said that Owasso instructed teachers to stop student grading after the complaints were raised.

Mrs. Falvo said one of her sons wanted to drop out of school after his test scores were ridiculed by other students.

Her children continue to attend Owasso schools. They range in grades from 11th to ninth. A fourth sibling who was not part of the lawsuit is in the sixth grade.

She said Monday's decision brought mixed feelings. It means the family will not be able to immediately join her husband, James Falvo, who took a job in Nebraska last fall. The family doesn't want to jeopardize the lawsuit by leaving the school district.

``But I'm hoping that the Supreme Court will find in our favor,'' she said, ``and maybe all the schools in every state will protect children's privacy.''

The case is Owasso Independent School District v. Falvo, 00-1073.
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