Supreme Court Considers Students' Privacy Rights

July 7, 2008 - 8:03 PM

( - The U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments Tuesday in a student privacy case that reveals a split in conservative opinion: Is it a violation of federal law to have students grade each other's tests and other classwork, then read the grades out loud?

Under a 1974 federal law, education records are supposed to be confidential if the school system accepts federal aid.

An Oklahoma mother complained about students grading each others' papers after her son was teased for being "dumb" because he scored lower than other students who graded his papers. Kristja Falvo sued her Oklahoma school district in 1998, after her complaints got her nowhere.

The conservative Rutherford Institute, arguing on Falvo's behalf, said, "The practice of exchanging papers and then calling out the grades unlawfully circumvents the purpose of safeguarding students' personal grade information."

But the Bush administration has sided with the school district, apparently agreeing with critics who say the government should not micro-manage what goes on in the classroom.
For instance, should the 1974 federal law be interpreted in a way that would ban displays of graded student papers in hallways or on classroom bulletin boards?

Although many people were surprised when the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case, the issues - privacy, parental involvement in schools, government intrusion, and the right of teachers to run their own classrooms - rank high on the conservative agenda.

The Supreme Court has allotted one hour for arguments in the case of Owasso Independent School District v. Falvo.