Controversial Pasco County school-to-police records pipeline could end under legislation

News4Jax | by Mike Vasilinda | March 3, 2021

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – A controversial three-year agreement that has Pasco County Schools sharing student data with the Sheriff’s Office could soon end under legislation moving in the State Capitol.

A last-minute amendment to a parents’ rights bill would require parents to give their permission before schools could share data with law enforcement.

The 2002 movie “Minority Report” portrayed futuristic police using predictive technology to stop crimes before they happen.

For three years, Pasco Schools have been providing the Pasco Sheriff’s Office with student data, then cross-referenced for any law enforcement contact and possible follow-up. But that process could be severely curtailed under an amendment approved in the State Capitol.

“Parents should have to affirmatively consent to allowing the school district to release their child’s grades to local law enforcement,” said amendment sponsor Senator Jeff Brandes.

The amendment would require every school district, not just Pasco, to get permission from a parent before sharing a student’s information with the police or anyone else.

Democratic Senator Tina Polsky voted for the amendment, but against the bill.

“Good amendment and I voted for the amendment. Obviously, I knew the bill would pass but I am glad the amendment is there,” said Polsky.

Dennis Baxley, whose family has ties to law enforcement, said the amendment is about putting parents first.

“The school is not the parent. The parents, these families, these children belong to these families. They don’t belong to the state,” said Baxley.

“I’m open to having a conversation,” said Representative Erin Grall, who is sponsoring the House version of the Parents’ Bill of Rights.

The House version doesn’t have the data-sharing amendment yet.

“And I do think whenever a child’s records are accessed by anyone, we do need to be involving parents,” said Grall.

If approved, the Parents’ Rights legislation would take effect July 1, just in time for the fall semester.

The Pasco School Superintendent did not return our call.

We did speak to the Pasco County Sheriffs Office, which said it has not planed to work against the legislation.

Photo: Screenshot of News4Jax video.

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