Tennessee lets school districts decide if COVID-19 data should be released


NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Parents are questioning what they need to know to keep their kids safe during the pandemic and if the state of Tennessee is releasing enough information.

State leaders said student privacy is becoming a national conversation in the wake of coronavirus with many questioning what information may be released and what should be kept private.

Tennessee’s Department of Education did release an online dashboard where parents may find information on school closures and learning styles for each district in the state.

The Department of Health also releases case counts among school-aged children specific to each county.

However, some are saying this is not enough as they already get this information from local districts.

Education Commissioner Dr. Penny Schwinn pointed to the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act as a top reason why the state won’t release specific COVID-19 data on students.

The law offers parents the right to have some control over disclosure of personal information.

Dr. Schwinn said local districts must make their own decisions on what to report.

“We know that districts and schools are able to make the best decisions for their local communities and knowing what is the right grain size to share. We have over 1,800 schools, 147 districts, 975,000 students, over 100,000 staff. We want to make sure if we are providing information it is explicitly accurate to that local community and that is the responsibility of the local district to determine how to share that information with their school stakeholders,” explained Dr. Schwinn.

Some local districts, including Putnam County Schools, are sharing case numbers within the district.

The state says in smaller districts this information would make it easy to determine which students have a positive case.

“The extent that a parent doesn’t want information about their child made public, it’s really important, it’s really important that people in a school district can’t figure out which children individually have a case,” said Gov. Lee.

Gov. Lee added a lot of people want more information on COVID-19 cases in schools but they wouldn’t want this type of information made public about their child and protecting students is vital.

News 2 digs deeper into how schools are moving forward safely for the new academic year. See how other districts around Middle Tennessee are handling everything from classroom concerns to the future of sports in our special series. Click here to see more.

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