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June 16, 2004

Frances Marine or
MacKay Jimeson
(850) 245-0413

Education Commissioner Horne's Statement on the Sarasota Herald Tribune Getting a Court to Force the Release of Teacher Social Security Numbers
Rationale behind decision puts privacy of student and teacher records at risk

TALLAHASSEE — Education Commissioner Jim Horne today made the following statement regarding the Second Circuit's decision in NYT Management Services, Inc. d/b/a The Sarasota Herald Tribune v. The Florida Department of Education:

"We are disappointed with the decision issued last night by the Second Circuit, which requires the Department of Education to turn over teacher social security numbers to the Sarasota Herald Tribune, and any other media entity that requests them. We disagree with the court's decision and continue to believe it is important to protect teacher privacy.

"The decision also requires Department of Education staff to spend time conducting extensive data analysis at the request of private for-profit groups, creating public records that do not currently exist. The time spent on such tasks is time taken away from increasing student achievement among all of Florida's students — the mission and duties of the Department of Education — at taxpayers' expense. This ruling turns the purpose of state government on its ear.

"In addition, the ruling declares unconstitutional a specific statute exempting social security numbers in the state's teacher certification database from public records. The rationale by which the court reached this decision potentially puts at risk virtually every protection of student and teacher privacy in this state. On behalf of Florida's hardworking teachers, students, and parents, we will appeal this decision."