Albuquerque Public Schools

Submitted by Dwayne Norris, Albuquerque Teachers Federation Vice President of Membership & Involvement

This letter is provided as opinion/commentary from the author.
You can submit your own: editor@abq.news

This story also appeared in Commentary

Earlier this month, the Albuquerque Journal published a deeply misleading article entitled, “APS board approves controversial records policy.” Some other local news outlets followed suit. The Journal headline implies that all school records will now be available to parents, even confidential notes. This is simply not true.

Since the publication of these articles, APS counselors have reported multiple incidences of terrified LGBTQ+ students asking if they will be “outed” to their parents. Educators have also reported that some principals are confused on the reporting criteria.

Students are right to be concerned as research from Leslie University shows: 

  • 50% of parents/guardians have a negative reaction when their child first comes out to them.
  • 25% of LGBTQ+ kids get kicked out of their homes when they come out to their parents/guardians.
  • 40% of homeless youth are LGBTQ+.
  • Suicide rates for LGBTQ+ students are 4 times higher than their heterosexual peers.

The truth is that the most problematic language in the June 6th draft of the Parents’ Policy – which called for educators to release confidential notes to parents – was removed from the policy document approved by the Board on November 16 thanks to the activism of educators, students, concerned families, and community groups who spoke out about the harmful effects this policy would have on APS students and staff. In fact, the June 6th draft, introduced by Board Member Courtney Jackson, was tabled by the Board with a 6-1 vote. Jackson was the lone dissenting vote.

Counselors and other staff have always had a duty to report when:

  • A student may be a danger to themselves or someone else
  • Someone is harming a student
  • They receive a subpoena for the records

That hasn’t changed. Neither have parents’ rights under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). 

Other than these issues that meet mandatory reporting criteria, students can still talk to their counselors and trusted educators with the confidentiality they deserve and have come to expect.

The two dissenting votes on this policy, Board Members Barbara Petersen and Josefina Dominguez, both noted that there was no need to change the existing policy because the new proposal was so similar to the one that already existed.

For the sake of our students, the Albuquerque Teachers Federation (ATF) urges news outlets who have covered this story to publish follow-up coverage that will ensure clarity.

Sincerely,

Albuquerque Teachers Federation Executive Council

Dr. Ellen Bernstein, President

Sean Thomas, Executive Vice President, Eldorado HS Teacher

Dwayne Norris, Vice President of Membership & Involvement

Angela Reynolds, Essential & Related Services Educators Vice President, Educational Diagnostician

Teddi Toniolli, High School Vice President, Manzano HS Teacher

Sarah Hager, Middle School Vice President, Cleveland MS Teacher

Sonya Romero-Autrey, Elementary Vice President, Lew Wallace ES Teacher

Loyola Cortinas, Elementary Vice President, Tierra Antigua ES Teacher

Terri Bitsie, Secretary, Alamosa ES Teacher

Celeste Hernandez, Treasurer, Lew Wallace ES Teacher