Can/Should A School Compel Students to Share Grades with Other Students?

Updated on March 30, 2017
V.S. asks from Birdsboro, PA
27 answers

I have a ninth grader who is extremely anxious and private. She learned today that the capstone project (which had originally been presented as an opportunity to share their work from the year with the rest of the student body) is actually a requirement to share their grades with the rest of the student body. They are required to announce their grades and defend or justify their grades. Not only are they required to do it, but the presentation is worth 200 points, the largest grade calculation of her advisory for the year. Not participating and receiving a zero would mean failing the class. Her grades are not what is necessarily at issue, but rather her privacy. I am still investigating, but I believe this may be a FERPA violation. She also found out for science she must reveal her weight and BMI as well as her calorie intake and determine how healthy her diet is. Again, her weight is not at issue (in fact, she is bordering on underweight and at risk for an eating disorder - this project could tip her in that direction), but rather her privacy. It would be completely possible to learn this subject using hypotheticals and a private diary, but the school is requiring class presentation and sharing of personal information.

Before I go all mamabear on this school, is this something you have encountered in your schools? Is this accepted and typical for most schools? If you have encountered this, how did you handle it?

(footnote - she is leaving this school next year as this school has been nothing but problems and a very poor fit).

What can I do next?

  • Add yourAnswer own comment
  • Ask your own question Add Question
  • Join the Mamapedia community Mamapedia
  • as inappropriate
  • this with your friends

So What Happened?

Thank you for the support so far. Good question in "where does SHE stand on it." She was in a full blown panic attack when I picked her up, sobbing in fear over having to do this. She has already been offered a spot at another school for next year and she has been on the fence - she hates her current school, but wasn't 100% sure changing was the right decision. She declared she can't wait to leave and this seals the deal for her. In terms of taking the lead, you are right - she should do that. I'm not sure with her current state of anxiety how effectively she'll be able to do that, but I will certainly involve her. When she calmed down, she joked, "I should say 'here's what I learned in my time at this school: I learned I absolutely hate this school and can't wait to leave it all behind! I'm out, suckas!'" How good would that feel!? I think we'll be a little more official and diplomatic than that, though....

re: talking to a lawyer - that card will be pulled if it comes to it - my husband is a litigator. Haven't had a chance to investigate FERPA, HIPAA, or the Buckley Amendment, but this may or may not violate those. I'll be discussing it with him tonight.

ETA: First, thank you all. You guys are the best. To answer a few questions:
1) this is a public stem school that runs five years and is associated with a college, so upon graduation they have both their high school diploma and an associate's degree in hand. So yes, the program is accelerated - they finished 9th grade curriculum in the fall and are doing 10th grade curriculum now. And yes, "advisory" is a class that she has for a grade that runs all year - it's service projects and meta-awareness of academic issues. My sister's kids have advisory in their school, too, but it's not for a grade. This is.

2) I knew they had a capstone project, but it was presented in a way that made it sound like a fun reflection on projects completed during the year. Yesterday was the first I heard this detail, and she claims there was a student who came in to give his example from last year, so she's seen a concrete example of what they want. The program is mastery based, so they must have a 90% to pass. There are many, many kids who will need to do remediation to get to that 90%, as there were in the fall, and so that is why they have to defend their grades and state what they should have done. I'm okay with this procedure between the student and the teacher, but to have to present this in front of 40 of your peers is what I find to be outrageous.

3) This is only the second year the school is in existence. It is the sister school of another STEM school in the area that has been around for quite some time. Last year when we toured, there were only 9th graders and we were impressed with the experienced staff and small size. This year, though, she has had teachers who are all have three or less years of teaching experience, barely older than she, as the school made new hires as they added a new grade.

4) I would move her in a heartbeat to her new school, but it is, unfortunately, not an option until fall.

5) We have had so many problems with communication with this school, discipline, focus, and a complete lack of understanding of how teenagers think. Can't wait for this year to be done.

6) oh, and I have no interest in changing it for all the other students. I realize some kids dig this and are inspired by it, and we have a mom at my son's school who is constantly demanding the school change policies to suit her kid. Drives me nuts! BUT - if they happen to rethink their policy because I (and anyone else who thinks like all of us here do) disagree with the approach, so be it. She has a 504 for anxiety that allows me to have input on her assignments, so I don't think I will have a hard time changing this, especially because I almost never pull the 504 card. But this is it.

7) on your recommendation, I've reviewed beginning of the year documents. There is no "contract" per se, as it's a public school, not private. The documents we signed that even come close were giving permission to use online grade books with the disclaimer that, like all things on the internet, they could potentially be hacked. Beyond that, nothing explicitly abdicating her right to privacy.

Featured Answers


answers from Boston on

I would probably question why she is required to announce and then defend or justify her grades. Really her grades are given by her teachers so there's nothing to defend or justify. If she was given good grades or no its really not up to the other students to have an opinion on them. I would be upset with this and be at the school soooo fast.

The science class where the kids have to share their weight, BMI, and calorie intake is basically fat shaming and I would go to the school calling it that. You can teach good choices without all that data and seriously just because you are overweight doesn't mean you are unhealthy. In fact the National Institute of Health actually changed the guidelines in 1998 to make more people classified as over weight and obese. Why? Because the diet industry is a multi billion dollar industry so by having more people have a weight problem it funnels more people to that business for a solution.

Go mama bear on that school. They are really over stepping on this.

8 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

Sorry, I have an 8 th grade boy, so no experience with this, but the more I read, the angrier I became! 2 questions:

Would the school staff like to share and defend their annual reviews?
Would the instructors like to share their weight and daily food intake?

Some students may not have a problem with this, but many will. Idiots! So glad she is leaving. And, in this case, please go all mamabear!! Kids have a right to privacy and protection.

7 moms found this helpful


answers from Atlanta on

If my high school senior has to give potential colleges his transcripts in a SEALED envelope from the school? I think this is breaking the law. I would NOT allow this.

4 moms found this helpful

More Answers



answers from Toledo on

First, I would verify with the school everything that your daughter said just to make sure there is no misunderstanding. I'm not suggesting that your daughter lied or anything crazy like that. But verifying the facts will lend credibility to you case.

I don't know anything about FERPA, but what you are sayings sounds completely inappropriate and definitely a violation of her privacy.

8 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

ooh hell no! that's so not right!

It's NO ONE else's business what her grades are. She should NOT have to justify her grades to ANYONE but YOU and herself.

I'd tell the school that they bit off more than they can chew and back off. NOW. Hell, I'd even consider hiring a lawyer. This is like medical records, in my opinion, no one else's business but WHO YOU WANT TO KNOW. Check out what NCES states:

Education records include a range of information about a student that is maintained in schools in any recorded way, such as handwriting, print, computer media, video or audio tape, film, microfilm, and microfiche. Examples are:

•Date and place of birth, parent(s) and/or guardian addresses, and where parents can be contacted in emergencies;

•Grades, test scores, courses taken, academic specializations and activities, and official letters regarding a student's status in school;

•Special education records;

•Disciplinary records;

•Medical and health records that the school creates or collects and maintains;

•Documentation of attendance, schools attended, courses taken, awards conferred, and degrees earned;

•Personal information such as a student's identification code, social security number,picture, or other information that would make it easy to identify or locate a student.

Personal notes made by teachers and other school officials that are not shared with others are not considered education records. Additionally, law enforcement records created and maintained by a school or district's law enforcement unit are not education records.


8 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

I'd be upset not because of grades or eating habits... solely due to privacy.

Our schools don't do this but I believe they borderline on invasion of privacy.

Ex; daughter was asked in early elementary grades on more than 2 occasions to draw her house, explain how many doors, windows and smoke alarms were in the house. That was NO ones business. You can take that info and come up with approximate home values, etc.

We expressed our concern with those personal questions cleverly asked of innocent children.

7 moms found this helpful


answers from Houston on

I have a big issue with both. First, I agree the grade isn't the problem its the method they are using i.e. shaming the kids. Also the science one as well.

I would want to stand up and say "none of your business" and then sit down.

What does your daughter say? Would she like for you to go mamabear? That is where I would start.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Honolulu on

I had a class in which I was required to grade myself, share the grades with the others in the group, and then defend or argue the grade that I assigned myself.

Big difference: I was a senior in college, about to get my degree in elementary education, and this was a class about grading, how to deal with a student/parent who might argue about a grade I gave, and how grades can be sometimes arbitrary or influenced by certain factors when the question requires something other than "black and white" answers (like when the question is "what is the capital of New York" vs "what is the best city in New York"). And, I knew what this class was about and voluntarily took it. It was not required, but it was interesting as an elective. As part of the class, we discussed certain anxieties or nervousness about defending or assigning grades, and we also learned about boundaries and privacy and sensitivity.

Your daughter is nowhere near a senior in college. She's young, inexperienced, and immature as far as the education process goes. (Not saying immature as an insult or disparaging remark, but just saying that ninth graders are still young, still having just turned into teenagers, and just starting high school, and it can be a rough time).

I do think this is a FERPA violation. FERPA, as far as I understand, requires a parent's or student's signature before releasing personal info, unless requested by law enforcement officers, or if the student is applying for some scholarship or acceptance into a school and knows that his/her grades will be released to the appropriate committee, or to an authorized state accounting agency for enrollment data purposes, etc.

As far as I know, the Buckley Amendment is the part of FERPA that protects the privacy of a student's information (grades, address, discipline records, etc) so I think you're talking about the specific part of FERPA that is Buckley, not other aspects of FERPA. (I could be wrong).

A couple of questions that could be pertinent: is this school that your daughter is currently in a public school or private school? If it's private, they could argue that they are exempt from FERPA, as they don't receive federal funding. Next question: does your daughter receive any therapy or counseling? A medical doctor who treats her and realizes that she experiences anxiety and social panic could issue a statement that protects her from having to share this private information.

I feel that the most important parts of your question are: your daughter's clearly stated anxiety over this loss of privacy, and the fact that you are talking about ninth graders. They may be 14 years old as an average, if I'm correct, and this is a very vulnerable age for bullying, teasing, embarrassment, shyness, ridiculous bragging, unrealistic expectations, unhealthy comparisons among peers, inappropriate internet sharing, and other difficult situations.

Can you imagine one child standing up and revealing a BMI and a grade in public, and then having some other kid posting that on the internet (especially one of those sites where the post or pic disappears soon after its read)? Does the school realize the implications? What if someone went to the school administration and asked something like "my kid got a D in history, and I think that it's unfair. I want to know what the other kids got in that class"? The school would hopefully refuse that request. But they're letting teachers do it without any parental guidance or school staff oversight?

I encourage your daughter to advocate for her own privacy, and I encourage you to tell her you will support her. Write a statement to the teacher together. Declare that in this day and age where anything and everything ends up online, and where bullying is a constant problem, that your daughter will not reveal her private facts, nor will she listen to others' revealing theirs. Have her inform the school that she has not given her written permission for the release of this sensitive information. If it's a private school and if she signed something in the syllabus and knew about this beforehand, it might be a more difficult fight and she might not have the law to rely on. But that doesn't mean she can't fight for something that is important. If she fails the class, have the teacher put the reason why in writing.

Make sure your daughter understands that this isn't about disagreeing with a teacher, or disagreeing with a particular assignment, or simply not liking an assignment. Make sure she is very clear that this is not something arbitrary or trivial. Make sure she knows that if it were a situation where she didn't want to write about something "boring" or work with "student X who's such a pain" that there would be no excuses, no defense. This is important. I hope she doesn't just say "peace out, suckas". I hope she writes a memorable statement about privacy and sensitivity and respect for others.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Norfolk on

I have never heard of anything like this before.
Even when it comes to finding out how you did in an audition - students are assigned numbers and you only find out how you placed - you NEVER find out how anyone else did.
If this is not what your daughter signed up for or it was presented in a way as to be misleading, I'd have to consider talking to a lawyer about this.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Philadelphia on

Both assignments for presentations are outrageous! I too see this a a major violation of privacy.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

First of all, where does your DAUGHTER stand on these issues. I have found myself ready to go all postal on the school about something I thought was ridiculous on behalf of one of my kids, only to find out that said kid simply could care less and it would be a waste of my time and energy fighting a fight my kid was not interested in.

Second, if she too feels these are true invasions of her privacy, since most 9th graders are about 15 years old, and it is unlikely that her anxiety and privacy issues are just going to disappear as an adult, it is imperative that you get her on board and be the leader in this - not you. She will definitely need your help navigating the waters of school politics, but ultimately it is her fight. We are supposed to HELP our kids do the right thing and stand up for themselves, not do it for them.

I have fought fights at my school as well. Different issues than yours - most of ours would surround doing projects that involved knowing personal family information. 3 of our children were adopted and we know virtually nothing about their birth parents. I found it invasive and unfair that projects would center around knowing certain information about a person's family.

I have found that starting at the bottom (the teacher), rather than the top (principal) tended to be a better strategy unless I was trying to change something school-wide. If I was looking at just changing something for my kid or for one class, starting with the teacher always worked better for me.

On a personal note - I agree with you. The school is WAY off base in requiring both of these things. I'd fight it (or my kid and I), too.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Pittsburgh on

My kids are younger but I find both of these to be completely inappropriate.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

My kids had to enter their weight in a science project in middle school to calculate how much force they'd have on different planets. Kids were allowed to enter in a bogus number of they chose. The thing with it was - obviously the kids who weren't comfortable felt awkward entering bogus numbers ... just kind of unnecessary in my opinion. I had issues with that teacher all year.

That's the closest we've come to what you're describing. Never had to share grades.

We had to justify and defend arguments before when we took debating (back in the day) but never grades.

I wouldn't like it either.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

Another homeschooling mom here.... I could understand if the student were asked to assign themselves a grade and to defend it to the teacher panel and parents within a conference setting, but no... this takes the cake. What's worse is that educators who work with kids this age should KNOW that kids are sensitive about public presentation and how they come across to other students. This seems incredibly tone-deaf to the students.

I have a feeling you are not the only pissed off Mama Bear. If it were me, I'd be starting with the teachers. Have your daughter write out a well-thought out, complete statement as to why she feels this is not realistic. I mean, in the adult world, employee reviews are to be conducted in private. Even if she went to graduate school or was going for her doctorate, there is a small group of advisers one defends their work to, not the entire college or university. Have her cite why this is a bad idea. The school principal should never have signed off on this.. or did they? When I had issues with my son's school last year, what was very clear to me was that the principal wasn't in the loop on some goings-on that were happening at the classroom level and children's safety was compromised. While we did leave the school, the principal also had a lot of egg on her own face by not being forward-thinking or proactive about a situation. In our case, the principal's director was also notified. There is a chain of command that is worth looking into as you help your daughter advocate for her rights.

I'd also suggest that your daughter come up with alternative plans for the work that she would be willing to do which would not compromise her privacy, and present these as an alternative. As I said before, I would imagine that there are other parents who don't like this. If there is not any resolution on this, consider going to the next PTA meeting and bringing it up. (you will want to email the PTA chair first and ask for it to be added to the agenda in the week or so before the meeting, so they will schedule time for it.) As a parent, I'd want to know about this. Kids often won't complain or share about their homework, but if this is really the expectation, parents need to know.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Pittsburgh on

My kids are grown and out of the house. If this had happened when they were in school? I would have said NO.

I distinctly remember my kids applying for colleges and having to give their high school a stamped envelope addressed to the college they were applying to for them to send to the college. I'd say what they are doing is illegal? Was there something you signed at the beginning of the school year and you are just now reading it?

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Abilene on

We homeschool so I don't know if it's normal. I have not heard any of our friends in the public school arena talk about anything like this. I would be appalled.

I understand her reluctance to give personal information and personally I think having to "defend" your grades is ridiculous. I am more mortified at the prospect of publicly stating your BMI and weight. What exactly is the purpose? I would be inclined to think that's a very damaging way to teach. There's nothing wrong with conducting a "case study" using an anonymous person. On the other side of the coin, if a student is obese in her class, is this supposed to encourage better eating habits? I can tell you as one who struggles daily with weight it would have the exact opposite influence.

I realize obesity is an issue. Embarrassing a student in front of their classmates is cruel, especially when done purposely. Same with the grades. I worked my butt off and made A's, B's and C's. Some of my friends never had to study at all and made straight A's. Who cares! Ugh! Just another way for people to measure themselves against someone else. Stupidity in action.

Good luck and I hope you can diplomatically handle this with the school. If not, I might consider summer school as an option.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

Follow your mama bear instinct. And sorry, 15 is too young to be asking the to fight this fight, just show the how it's done this time. Start at the top of the school, do it in writing, deliver I person, ask for a response within 24 hrs. You must include the phrase "exploring your options". If you do not hear back by your deadline, and I mean it, you for to the school board and then keep on going, local press etc etc etc. The way I look at it, your kids are the only job that really matters, YOU are their one and only advocate, if you don't fight for them who will?? And I mean fight. And ... include a letter from her medical doctor saying it would be detrimental to her physical (not mental) health. Go nuts.... in a very polite way.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Seattle on

My eldest son is 14 and a straight "A" student. He also is perfectly healthy with not an ounce of fat on him (not quite sure HOW that happened! lol)
He would be a bundle of nerves if he had to get up and explain his grades and defend them. And he works HARD to get those grades.
So, if MY kid...who has good grades, would be nervous and upset I can only imagine how other kids would feel whose grades were less than perfect.
And if he came home telling me that he had to share with the CLASS how much he weighed and ate I would be appalled. Because I was that kid in jr. high and high school who was bigger then everyone else. I NEVER would have shared ANYTHING about what I ate or weighed with anyone. I would have taken the "F" in that class over sharing anything. BUT...a question about that one....Is she sharing that with the class or is she doing her own paper? she going to be the only one who knows the results or is it shared with everyone? If it's for her eyes only...meh. Might not be that bad. it makes her aware of what she is eating and how it affects her. But if it's for the whole class...that would be a big "hell no" from me.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Miami on

V., did you and your daughter read what you signed at the beginning of the year? It could be that they've gotten around the law by burying it in the fine print. Check that out.

Remember, it's not the fluff advertising verbally that counts. It's the fine print in what you sign...

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

I would ask to have her excused for medical reasons (anxiety) and provide a doctors note. Perhaps they could find alternate activities for her These actually sound like useful, enriching projects, and I don't think it is fair for you to ask the school to stop doing them because your daughter has anxiety, and deprive the rest of the kids the opportunity to participate.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Wausau on

'Capstone projects' are typically uni/college things, and optional, and don't necessarily involve the things you listed unless the student themselves chose a personal topic for a larger reason. I have never heard of such a thing as what you're describing.

" the largest grade calculation **of her advisory** for the year. "

This is another oddity that isn't a typical thing one would hear in a typical high school. Does your daughter attend some kind of private school accelerated program? If so, you may have signed her up for this and given permission for the data without realizing.

"Not participating and receiving a zero would mean failing the class. "

If it comes down to it, so be it. That's not a dire situation.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Denver on

I do believe this is a violation of FERPA which requires that only those who have a need to know grades should have access to them.
The first thing I would check is whether or not her project has to be this particular one. Can she choose a different one?
I would definitely bring my concerns to the faculty member coordinating this project to see what the options are.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Baton Rouge on

I have never heard of such a thing, but my kid has been out of school for a long time now. I would fight this.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Oklahoma City on

I would go all mama bear on them and post on FB school pages that I was going to go all mama bear on it and invite all the other mama bears in town to rise to the occasion with me.

To get them all riled up I'd use words and phrases like "All the overweight kids at school have to share their weight and body fat content", "All the perfect bodies would be shown off and used as an example of how one "should" look", and more things like that. Not as many kids in school are underweight so I'd use the overweight card instead.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from New York on

Question: she is supposed to "defend or justify her grades" - so they are assuming every student is happy with his/her grades? I have had many teachers over the years who seemed to be crazy graders...I could imagine myself saying something like: "Mr. Smith gave me a B- in history, Mr. Smith is a jerk and I deserved a B+", lol. Just not sure I understand even the topic of that project you describe.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Detroit on

Hi V.,

At the risk of sounding flippant, whoever thought up these "projects" should be forced to walk on stage in their underwear and be humiliated accordingly. What is this?? Game of Thrones? I am close to horrified, especially about the weight and BMI "requirement." I can tell you that HIPPA is specific to medical issues so this doesn't violate that. However, after glancing at the FERPA requirements, I would say that these "project requirements" are in violation and are actionable. I would take this straight to the superintendent and see what alternatives to which she can avail herself. I know it's late in the academic year but perhaps moving to her new school now would also serve her well. I've said it before and I'll say it again......follow that mom alarm and it will not let you down. I say go mamabear and the sooner the better. You and she have my thoughts and best wishes. S.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Oklahoma City on

Absolutely not!! Both of these assignments are completely unacceptable! She should never be required to share private information without her consent! I would make an appointment with the principal to let him/her know that your daughter won't be doing these two assignments, because they violate privacy standards and laws, and that you need to know then what the alternative plan is for students not doing the assignments.

1 mom found this helpful
For Updates and Special Promotions
Follow Us

Related Questions