I expect many of you remember that great country song, “Behind Closed Doors.” The lyric reminded us several times that “no one knows what goes on behind closed doors.” The guy singing the song seemed to be looking forward to getting behind those doors, as I recall. The song is a celebration of privacy.
A recent federal court case reminded me of the song. It’s yet another “sex with a student” case, involving a student named “John Doe,” this time from Nevada. The court dismissed most of the claims in the suit, but kept alive the allegation that the district had violated the student’s right of privacy.
Did school officials publicly disclose that the student was a victim of a sex crime? No.
Did they violate FERPA by disclosing confidential records? No.
Did they tell the media the real name of “John Doe”? No.
What they did was they left the door open:
A reasonable jury could find that removing John from class and questioning him about such a sensitive topic in public view with a door to the office open, combined with the real possibility that doing so would result in revealing John’s identity as the victim of a sex crime, violated John’s substantive due process rights. (Emphasis added).
The lawsuit alleged that the district routinely left the door open “with deliberate indifference” to student privacy. The office had windows also, and the blinds were not closed. So the suit alleged that kids were able to figure this out. The teacher was soon arrested….they saw John Doe in the office for a long, long time. It must have been him.
This case has a long way to go, but at this stage it serves as a reminder. When questioning kids about sensitive issues, be mindful of who is present and who can see what is going on. The case is Doe v. Clark County School District, 68 IDELR 94 (D.C. Nev. 2016).
DAWG BONE: STUDENTS DO HAVE A RIGHT OF PRIVACY
File this one under: LIABILITY