Hamilton County Schools received an open records request on Thursday, October 7, but it was rescinded just a few hours later. The request was made by Brendan Jennings with Friends of Hamilton.
Parents were concerned, according to Channel 3, because it asked for contact information and the first and last name of student guardians. The school system sent an email to families to let them know about the request.
“Families of Hamilton County Schools, this message serves as notice of an open records request involving you and your child’s information,” the email stated. “Per board policy, we wanted to give you advanced notice of this request prior to your information being shared next week. We are required by law to fulfill this request.”
Parents questioned the reasoning for the request and had asked for personal information not to be given out. One parent, Josh Payne, told Channel 3 they didn’t know what the intention of the request was.
“I don’t want my kids’ information or my information for that matter being shared with strangers who I don’t know what their intentions are with that information,” Payne said.
In a statement released by Hamilton County Schools, they called it an invasion of privacy for families.
“While the Board is bound by the law, we respect the privacy of our students and their families. We understand that families are considering what legal action they can take to block this request, and the Board stands ready to support and partner with them however we can,” the statement said.
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The school system said they would look at all available legal options before sharing any information.
However, Jennings rescinded the request later that evening due to the concerns being expressed.
“We knew certain information was public and we made a request based on our experience from the past,” he told Channel 3. “We’re not using it to direct or guide people or anything like that, it’s just going to be put out as a tool.”
Jennings said Friends of Hamilton, which has worked on state political campaigns and annexation laws, will change how they ask for information in the future.
“We have heard from many parents and listened to their concerns,” the group said in a statement. “Our intent in no way was to invade anyone’s privacy, but rather to help foster closer communications among parents while increasing transparency in the classroom. Sort of an electronic PTA or NextDoor for parents. The past year has been a challenging one for parents, including many in our group. We have previously been involved in political campaigns, including the statewide effort to end forced annexation in Tennessee, and we wanted to help create a more advantageous playing field for parents in presenting their concerns to school boards and school administrators.”
The group added that they “will continue to work with other like-minded groups to help parents get their voices heard at school boards and help make sure curricula and teaching methods more appropriately reflect what parents want in their schools.”
About the Author: Jason Vaughn, Media Coordinator for The Tennessee Conservative ~ Jason previously worked for a legacy publishing company based in Crossville, TN in a variety of roles through his career. Most recently, he served as Deputy Directory for their flagship publication. Prior, he was a freelance journalist writing articles that appeared in the Herald Citizen, the Crossville Chronicle and The Oracle among others. He graduated from Tennessee Technological University with a Bachelor’s in English-Journalism, with minors in Broadcast Journalism and History. Contact Jason at news@TennesseeConservativeNews.com