The printer is in the hallway?

The case of Compton v. Port Arthur ISD was prompted by the fact that Ms. Compton’s speech therapy reports were being printed on a printer that was in the hallway of another school building. Lots of people walked through that hallway, and thus, Ms. Compton expressed concern about potential violations of FERPA (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act). Ms. Compton eventually filed a lawsuit against the district, alleging that she was punished for exercising her free speech rights. We’re going to tell you how that came out tomorrow. For today, let’s talk about FERPA.

I have no idea if Ms. Compton’s complaint was accurate. The court case does not tell us. But for the sake of argument, let’s just say that it was. The speech therapist writes up her report on a student while working in an office at Adams Elementary School, but when she hits the “print” button it spits out on a printer in Jefferson Elementary, across town.

That would be very inconvenient, but would not, by itself, present a legal problem. But if it’s true that the printer was in an open hallway, where all sorts of teachers, students, custodians and who knows who else would be walking around, then you do have a problem. Pursuant to FERPA, districts are required to take reasonable steps to safeguard the privacy of educational records. A speech therapist’s report on a particular student is certainly an “educational record.” If we are printing out educational records, we should be sure that the printer is in a place where access is limited.

That’s the background on Ms. Compton’s free speech lawsuit. Check in tomorrow to find out why Ms. Compton now owes some money to the school administrators she sued.

The case is Compton v. Port Arthur ISD, decided by the Court of 24 Appeals in Beaumont on July 20, 2017. We found it at 2017 WL 3081092.


Tomorrow: Lawsuit is costly….for the plaintiff