Some of you may have seen the following article in the Denver Post on May 19, 2014: http://www.denverpost.com/news/ci_25790145/severe-punishments-minority-students-see-little-change
The main point of the article was to examine whether minority students are being disciplined at disproportionate rates. This is a controversial issue that is being closely examined right now and certainly has not been settled. Without speaking to that issue directly, however, there was one part of the article that was inaccurate and overly alarmist.
The article starts with the story of a student, Brandon Vigil who was charged with vandalism in the fifth grade for writing on a bathroom wall. The student, who is now 16, stated, “I know universities don’t want kids with a criminal record or who have had charges pressed against them.”
For three reasons, Brandon’s concerns are misplaced and overblown:
1. 1. In the vast majority of cases, the criminal records of juveniles are sealed when they turn 18. Universities and most employers would not even have access to such a record.
2. 2. The vast majority of universities and employers could care less what kind of mischief a student was engaged in when he or she was in the fifth grade.
3. 3. Three, a student’s school disciplinary record is protected under the Family Educational Rights Privacy Act (FERPA). Under FERPA, a student’s records generally cannot be released unless it’s at the request of a grown student or a minor student’s parents.
With the frequency of today’s zero-tolerance policies, parental concerns about student disciplinary records are understandable, but there’s also no reason to be particularly alarmed about relatively minor infractions on a student’s disciplinary record.