Albuquerque Public Schools Board of Education member Courtney Jackson says she’s feeling a little as if no good deed goes unpunished.
Jackson’s modest proposal to help parents better navigate the district’s website and get involved in the academics of children’s education recently turned into a political sideshow, causing the board to table the plan on a 6-1 vote.
But, here’s the kicker: Jackson, an attorney-turned-stay-at-home mom, says her parental rights and responsibility policy wouldn’t change anything — not who has access, to what information, when. It would simply aggregate current district policies about parental rights — what documents they have access to, when then can go on campus, etc., — under a single tab at aps.edu.
Jackson said her proposal stemmed from numerous constituent questions, questions she, as a board member, couldn’t easily find the answers to on the website. And she sent the plan through both the counseling and legal departments before bringing it to the board.
All that, unfortunately, got lost in translation.
About 30 LGBTQA+ activists showed up at the board meeting to protest the policy. Damon Carbajal, co-chair and policy coordinator for GLSEN Albuquerque, a local chapter of a national LGBTQ+ advocacy network, said while parents have a right to know what’s going on with their children, they don’t have a right to know everything. He worries gender support plans crafted by schools would be made available to parents.
They already are.
Jackson says that, while unofficial gender support plans allow students to use the pronouns and names of their choice in school without parental notification, parents are required by school policy to be made aware of official support plans.
The APS Student Handbook states “Student Records kept by the Albuquerque Public Schools will be open to review by parents/guardians and/or students and will be treated in a confidential manner.” And the district’s Gender Support Plan Checklist says a gender support plan meeting “should include the principal, student, parent/guardian, Title IX Director (for initial plans), counselor & nurse (if student/parent give permission), and anyone else the student/parent requests.”
It further gives parents a say on who has access to their child’s gender records, with the option to keep historical information in private folders with limited access.
Jackson’s proposed policy similarly states parents “have the right … to have access to all educational records of a school district concerning their child,” including “educational and/or social support plans, school counseling records and school health records.”
And while Board President Yolanda Montoya-Cordova says “we came out of this one a little too quick, we didn’t do our homework,” Jackson had. She checked how other school districts have formulated parental notification policies and consulted with APS administrators, who found no state or federal law prohibiting parents from obtaining the counseling records of their children.
She says her plan is modeled on the Houston school district.
Jackson told the Editorial Board she intends to bring the policy back up for discussion and hopes to have it implemented by the end of the year after plenty of community feedback. That’s good, because, while there will always be individual cases where family situations are difficult — whether it involves academics or personal issues — a standard concern among educators for decades has been the fact that parents are not involved enough in their kids’ education. Making that involvement easier should be a no-brainer.
Because Jackson is right, with the vast majority of APS’ 71,460 students, “the responsibility (for parents to help) educate our kids does not end when the parents walk their children through the front door.”
This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.