Saturday, August 16, 2014
(Solano County) Superintendent Ramona Bishop critiqued in recent grand jury report
August 15, 2014
By John Glidden
Vallejo City Unified School District Superintendent Ramona Bishop has been identified as the VCUSD official who sent an email containing minor students' names and other confidential information to an official in the Vallejo Police Department, according to a California Public Records Act request sent Wednesday to the Solano County District Attorney's Office.
The email became a focus of a July 8 Solano County Grand Jury report, "Release of Confidential Information by the Vallejo City Unified School District," in which the grand jury expressed concern "with the (VCUSD) official's handling of a serious incident and the release of confidential information pertaining to minors in violation of Welfare and Institutions Code 827 governing the dissemination of juvenile information."
The report stemmed from a February incident when a minor student was arrested by Vallejo police for possessing a pellet gun on Vallejo High School grounds and another minor student was released into the care of high school officials, according to the grand jury report.
After the incident, Bishop sent an email addressed to Vallejo Police Chief Joseph Kreins, in which she identifies by last name the two minor students involved.
"The students involved were (last name redacted) and (last name redacted). (Student arrested) was released shortly after being arrested for misdemeanor possession of a firearm on school grounds penal code 20170A," Bishop wrote.
Further down in the email, Bishop writes about the arrested student's school record.
"(Name redacted), the student in question has attended school regularly and had few disciplinary incidences this year," Bishop wrote.
Bishop addressed the email to the police chief, Vallejo Mayor Osby Davis, the former Solano County District Attorney Don du Bain and all the members of the VCUSD Board of Education.
In its report, the grand jury found that Bishop had violated California Welfare and Institutions Code 827 when she emailed "minor students' names and further confidential information to an individual who should not have been privy to this information ..."
It is not known at this time which individual should not have access to the students' names and other information. The 2013-14 Solano County Grand Jury foreman could not be reached for comment.
The report states that "California Welfare and Institutions Code 827 governs the dissemination of juveniles' information."
In addition, the report cites the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act: "Schools must have written permission from the parent or eligible student in order to release any information from a student's education record."
In the email, documents released by the Solano County District Attorney's Office, former DA Don du Bain sent an email response warning Bishop about releasing student information.
"I would caution you to be careful not to disclose the names of the minors since their identities are confidential in any criminal proceedings," du Bain wrote.
Bishop replied by writing, "Thank you for your caution — our board receives confidential student information as a part of their responsibility to oversee these matters. As a caution based on email communication there is no first name or grade level to identify either party."
She further writes, "I look forward to continued collaboration on this and other matters related to our students, and to understand more about the need to share sensitive information about our Vallejo High students with the media."
"I can confirm that I did issue a communication to local law enforcement expressing the need for our agencies to vigilantly protect student privacy, especially when dealing with minors. This issue was previously raised and promptly investigated by the board," Bishop wrote in an email. "Whether addressing student academic needs or services, administering discipline, or coordinating with local law enforcement, it is both our legal and moral obligation to always protect our student rights and their privacy."