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‘Opt-out’ directories vote fails in Kaneland

Board members balk at policy in which parents would have had to ask to be removed from school directory

SUGAR GROVE – A policy that would automatically enter family information in Kaneland School District elementary school directories will be re-examined after some school board members objected at Wednesday's meeting at Kaneland Harter Middle School in Sugar Grove.

The proposal was listed among the proposed updates and changes to student handbooks for the 2014-15 school year. Families would have been included unless they chose to opt out of the directory, which provides information such as parent and child names, email addresses and phone numbers.

Board members Tony Valente and Teresa Witt previously objected to the opt-out policy, but the item was on Wednesday's consent agenda, for the second and final reading of the handbook changes. Witt requested pulling the item out of the consent agenda.

Ultimately, the board OK'd all other changes to the handbooks on all levels, but voted separately on the opt-out policy at the elementary-school level, which failed. Valente, Witt and Peter Lopatin voted against the opt-out policy. Gale Pavlak abstained. Pedro Rivas, Veronica Bruhl and Cheryl Krauspe, the board's president, voted for the policy.

The directories exist at elementary schools, but Witt said there should be an opt-in policy instead. She said there could be safety concerns. Valente asked for the rationale of the opt-out policy. Superintendent Jeff Schuler said it was a request from parents.

Valente asked how many parents had requested that change. Bruhl said she heard from "numerous" parents at Blackberry Creek Elementary School. She said parents might use the information for social reasons. For instance, students are not allowed to distribute party invitations at school. Valente said such reasons disturbed him.

"It just seems less safe," Valente said.

Bruhl said there are reasons beyond that, and "it's not just about play dates or birthday parties." She said her son once had an issue with another child, and she was able to use the directory to find contact information for the family and have her child apologize to the other student.

Rivas also argued for the opt-out policy, alluding to the fact that "they can't hand out invitations in class. … We've taken that away."

"How do children have fun these days?" Rivas asked.

Lopatin asked whether the opt-out policy was a matter of convenience. He asked whether there would be a real function to it. He said he would have supported the opt-out policy if there were a mechanism in place to make clear to parents that they needed to say they didn't want to be included in the directory.

"I would want them to be well-informed on it," Lopatin said.

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