Beyond The Score

Central Vermont Sports Blog

Academic Privacy

with 2 comments

Recently I’ve been working with the MHS Athletic Council creating a new handbook that outlines the mission, objectives and goals for sport at Montpelier High. The discussions have been interesting and the new handbook should be helpful to everyone involved in sport, especially parents. The handbook will be presented to the school board sometime in early June and, hopefully, new policies concerning fan behavior and expectations for athletes will be approved. I can’t go into details until we have presented to the board but I will explain one fact that was an eye-opener for me. It has to do with students rights and academic privacy. FERPA (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act) has been around since 1974. It is a federal law that protects the privacy of student educational records. How this law is interpreted and applied has changed significantly over the years. When I was coaching in the 80’s, I would check with my players regularly about their school work. I would check with teachers and create structures that helped the “student-athlete” manage their time and do as well in school as on the playing field. Total involvement worked and players knew that coaches and teachers were there to help in the classroom and on the field.

Today MHS coaches are not allowed to access student-athlete information without violating FERPA. They can get information about eligibility from the AD but can not actually help students with academics to prevent ineligibility. The days of coaches helping players avoid academic suspension by showing an interest in their school work is gone. Even though coaches have signed a professional contract with Montpelier Public Schools and are required to uphold the schools mission, they are limited to coaching their sport. They are not to address the academic parts of the district mission statement. The term “student-athlete” is now defined separately; students by teachers – athletes by coaches. The single most important reason for spending money on sport is to give students opportunities to work together and achieve their goals: strive for excellence, work collaboratively, solve problems, blah, blah, blah . . .

Student progress is important! Avoiding academic problems is important! Athletics are important. I feel separating the two is a huge loss for our so-called “student-athletes.” Fragmenting education into little pigeon holes of achievement does not help develop a well-rounded individual. Factory education, universal sameness and false accountability are the new corner stones of modern education and the student-athlete now is a misnomer.


Written by Roger

May 19, 2010 at 4:00 PM

2 Responses

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  1. I wonder if a MHS coach who is ALSO a teacher at the school (a rarity these days) would have any trouble, legal or otherwise, combining the two functions (academic oversight and on-field coaching). My guess is that coaches from outside the school system are the ones denied access to student academic records. I would imagine outside coaches have ways they can discretely and legally demonstrate interest and actually help their players avoid academic ineligibility, but all such ways would most certainly be indirect and cumbersome to a point. In the absence these days of teachers and para-educators willing and able to coach, I wonder if some of these educators (with access to student academic records) would be willing to perform some very part-time academic coaching/mentoring duties for a particular team (in a sport they like)?. It could be very effective when a student-athlete knows that someone is PAYING ATTENTION!


    May 22, 2010 at 5:59 AM

  2. Actually Jim “teachers” need permission to access student records outside their discipline or subject. We have a teacher – coach on the committee. He coaches in another school (U32) and when he signed his coaching contract was informed about student privacy rights and his coaching assignment. At MHS the same rules apply to teacher-coaches within the system. They have access to courses they teach and need parental and student permission to go beyond. I think it would be an extremely rare case for a coach to use academic information to the determinant of the student-athlete.


    May 22, 2010 at 9:27 AM

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