Working Together: Schools & the Media Relationship with the Media The Houston County Board of Education invites and welcomes the active participation of newspapers, magazines, radio, television and other mass media of communication in promoting the cause of good education. Our school system appreciates the local media and their interest in our schools. Our system views reporters as representatives of the public at large. We understand that reporters have an important job, and we do our best to be responsive and respectful of deadlines. Our goal is to provide accurate information in a timely manner. Board of Education policies and procedures and federal and state laws govern the system’s public information program. Key HCBOE Policies and Procedures Board policy requires that requests for interviews with pupils, teachers and school system employees be approved by the Community Relations Department. In the event of approval for an interview with a student, the parent must be present for the interview or provide written consent. All visitors, including media representatives, are to report immediately to the principal’s office upon arrival and to report again to the principal’s office as he/she leaves the building. References: KB, Community Relations, Public Information Program and KM-R, Community Relations, Visits To The School
Federal Law: FERPA (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act) School systems have a legal and ethical responsibility to protect the privacy of students and their education records. The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) (20 U.S.C. § 1232g; 34 CFR Part 99) is a federal law that protects the privacy of student education records and limits information a school system may release about a student without parental or legal guardian consent. For example, school personnel may not disclose students’ grades, disciplinary record or academic program (such as if the student receives special education services). Georgia Law Regarding Employees Likewise, the Houston County School System has a responsibility to protect the rights of its employees, especially those who may be in the public spotlight. For example, employee home telephone numbers and addresses are exempt from release and would be redacted from files before made available for the public.
Media often request a personnel file or ask for comments about an employee who is facing a disciplinary hearing. The school system follows the Open Records Act, Official Code of Georgia Annotated (O.C.G.A.) § 51-18-70 et seq., and discloses information that is legally releasable. At the same time, the system is bound by law to not disclose certain information. For example, per O.C.G.A. § 20-2-210, performance evaluations are confidential and not considered open records. Also, documents used as part of an employee investigation also are not releasable until 10 days after the investigation has concluded or, if necessary, after the Board has