School board to look at student privacy policy

The Durham Board of Education will meet Thursday, June 14, to consider strengthening the school district’s student privacy policy.
The Durham Board of Education will meet Thursday, June 14, to consider strengthening the school district’s student privacy policy.

The Durham Board of Education will consider revisions to school policy regarding campus arrests and investigations by law enforcement officials when the board meets Thursday, June 15.

Under the proposed revisions, the superintendent would be required to review and to decide whether to honor any law enforcement officer or federal agency such as Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE) request to gather information, interview students or be allowed access to a school site.

The superintendent would be required to notify the school board of any such request.

The revisions would also require law enforcement officials to provide interpretation services when students or parents with limited English skills are being interviewed or notified about a law enforcement agency’s request for confidential student information.

In addition, principals would be required to notify the superintendent’s office of warrants served at school and the superintendent would be required to maintain a record of all such warrants.

The revisions to Policy 4321-Investigations and Arrests by Law Enforcement are an effort by the Durham Public Schools to strengthen rules around sharing confidential student information with law enforcement agencies in the wake of several high-profile cases in Durham involving immigrant students who faced deportation.

The proposed changes were prompted by recommendations from a working group of the Durham Association of Educators (DAE), which asked the board in February to consider policy improvements to better protect student privacy and due process rights.

In April, the DAE group applauded the school board’s efforts to strengthen the policy but said it fell short in some areas, particularly around the issue of allowing information and site access to ICE officers or other law enforcement officers performing immigration enforcement.

“It looks to me like they have strengthened the areas we thought were weak,” said Allison Swaim, a Riverside High School teacher and member of the DAE working group.

The DAE’s request came at at time when immigrants were on high alert in the wake of President Donald Trump’s stepped up immigration enforcement that led to more arrests and deportations of those in the country illegally.

DPS staffers are also expected to highlight the required training for school and district personnel on the policy and the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act.

Bond projects

In other business, the school board will consider approval of several capital projects made possible by 2016 bond money.

Voters approved more than $90 million for school improvements as part of a $170 million bond package that also included $20 million for Durham Technical Community College, $44.3 for a new library downtown and $14.1 million the Museum of Life and Science.

The projects include gym renovations at Brogden, Lowe’s Grove, Carrington and Neal middle schools, track resurfacing at Southern, Hillside, Riverside and Jordan high schools and the design contract for extensive renovations at Eno Valley Elementary School.

The board will also consider contracts for site survey for the $50 million Northern High School replacement, a design contract for the replacement of the school and the contract with Barnhill Contracting Company, which has been selected to manage the project for DPS.

The award only authorizes the construction manager to proceed with the pre-construction scope of the project as identified in the contract for the lump sum of $154,164.

Greg Childress: 919-419-6645, @gchild6645