Letter

NYCLU Follow-Up Letter to Alexandra Michalos on School Officials' Invasion of Student Privacy

Document Date: May 28, 2003
Affiliate: New York Civil Liberties Union

Alexandra Michalos, Esq.
General Counsel and Office of Legal Services
New York City Department of Education
52 Chambers Street, Room #320-G5
New York, NY 10007

Dear Ms. Michalos:

We appreciate the time you took to speak with us last week and write to follow up on that conversation.

As we stated during our phone conversation on May 22, 2003, we believe it necessary that your office conduct a more complete and thorough investigation of I.S. 164 administrators’ actions between April 14, 2003 and April 29, 2003. As we noted, we do not believe that you will get a complete picture of what actually occurred by only interviewing Principal Reid and asking her to investigate her staff, as we have asserted that she was one of the staff members responsible for violating the students’ rights. You should be able to identify the necessary parties with whom to speak from your current knowledge of which staff members were present at the various meetings with the students and their family members.

We understand that you would like copies of the notes that the girls submitted in response to administrators’ demands that they present documentation of the performance of certain medical tests as well as the results of such tests. As we mentioned, you have better access to the complete set of notes than we do. The school should have in its possession notes submitted by the girls containing the information we have stated was requested of them. For some of the girls, the school should have two versions of such note, including a first version that was rejected by I.S. 164 administrators for failure to list test results. Because we are contemplating litigating this matter, in light of the fact that these documents will contribute to the corroboration of the illegal acts committed by I.S. 164 administrators, we urge you to remind the I.S. 164 staff of their responsibility to preserve all notes and other documents related to this situation.

As we mentioned, at a minimum, we ask that the girls’ records be expunged of confidential medical records; that the school formally apologize to the girls involved; that the Department of Education reprimand and discipline the administrators involved in this unfortunate event; and that the Department compensate the parents and other family members for job wages lost for the days they were required to come into the school and to bring the students for the mandated doctor’s appointments. We also think it reasonable to compensate the students for the trauma caused by the unreasonable searches, invasion of their privacy and forced disclosure of private sexual matters.

As we all acknowledged, in the long range it would be prudent to develop and to institute system-wide trainings for administrators and other school staff on issues of student privacy and confidentiality of medical information, including information concerning pregnancy and HIV status. We hope to collaborate closely with your office to establish such programming. In our experience, administrators and staff-and by extension, their students-will benefit enormously from such education.

Thank you for your attention to this matter. We look forward to speaking to you again after you have had a chance to further investigate.

Sincerely,

Rebekah Diller
Director
Reproductive Rights Project

Anna Schissel
Staff Attorney
Reproductive Rights Project

Caroline Corbin
Cooperating Attorney