Syracuse Schools Ban Sharing of Discipline Records With Colleges

Proponents of the change say requesting discipline records puts students of color at a further disadvantage.
Published: December 3, 2015

The Syracuse school district will no longer share student discipline records with institutions of higher education. This is a reversal of a policy that goes back at least nine years when colleges and universities started asking high schools to indicate whether or not their students have been expelled or suspended.

Nearly one in four U.S. institutions of higher education ask for student discipline records, but only 25 percent of those have formal policies on what they do with this information, reports Syracuse.com.  According to the Center for Community Alternatives, half of high schools disclose disciplinary information when asked, but most don’t have policies on this topic. That leaves the determination on whether to release that information up to guidance counselors and school employees.

RELATED: Your Rights Under FERPA

The change in Syracuse’s policy comes amid growing concerns over the disproportionate rate of suspensions among black students. Proponents of the change say requesting discipline records puts students of color at a further disadvantage.

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“How many times should a student pay?” says Superintendent Sharon Contreras. “You make a mistake when you’re a ninth grader and it hurts you when you are applying to college? That’s just not fair.”

One school board member says discipline information is “Not applicable for going to college.”

Experts also disagree on whether the sharing of these records violates the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).

This poses a challenge for institutions of higher education because criminals often begin their criminal activity before they turn 18. For example, studies have shown that one in three U.S. adolescents is a victim of physical, sexual, emotional or verbal abuse from a dating partner.

As a result, more colleges and universities are finding it necessary to ask for discipline records to determine if a prospective student may pose a safety and/or security threat to the institution.

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