Statewide organization files open records requests, wants student information from school districts

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GREEN BAY, Wis. (WFRV) – Some local school districts are raising concerns about student privacy after a request from a statewide non-profit organization.

School Choice Wisconsin is an organization that supports the voucher program. The group has made open records requests to roughly 30 districts for student data, including names, addresses and phone numbers.

“I would call it a very unusual request,” said Michelle Langenfeld, Superintendent, Green Bay Area Public Schools.

Langenfeld said releasing this type of student information is unsettling.

“We have no idea of knowing where that data and information will go when it leaves us,” she explained. 

School Choice Wisconsin supports expanded educational options for parents. The president said they are seeking the student information to send out information to families explaining school choice.

“It was not a request of anything of a personal or private nature,” Jim Bender explained. “No academic data. No health records. Nothing like that. It was simply just a way to augment our mailing lists.”

Legally, the district does have to comply with the request. But to keep everyone involved on the same page, leaders sent a letter home to parents explaining what’s happening.

School Choice Wisconsin believes the Green Bay District’s concerns are political.

“I would argue the only reason they’re raising a red flag here is because it’s School Choice Wisconsin asking for the information and has nothing more to do with a privacy concern,” said Bender.

Langenfeld said her focus is what’s in the best interest of students.

“I am responsible for the student records in the district for each and every child and their families,” she added. “I take that very seriously, so the confidentiality and privacy for each family I take seriously.”

Local 5 checked in with some other local school districts. In Oshkosh, the superintendent is also concerned and plans to send information home to parents early next week.

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