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Privacy concerns prompt board to delay vote on mental health assessment tool

Superintendent Dr. Ryan Clark recognizes the Bardstown Lady Tigers for their 18-1 winning record at Tuesday’s board meeting.

By JIM BROOKS
Nelson County Gazette / WBRT Radio

Tuesday, Jan. 15, 2019 — Based on their concerns about the privacy of student records, the Bardstown Board of Education tabled their consideration of the purchase of a mental health screening tool created by a company called Terrance Metrics.

The computer-based screening tool — for grades 3 through 12 — is designed to provide schools with a comprehensive mental health assessment of their students, which would highlight areas of concern and mental health deficits among the student population.

Lance Boston, the district director of special education, assured the board that the company keeps its student information confidential and conforms to the federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (FERPA), and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA) laws.

Board member Jennifer Shrewsbury said her concern wasn’t with the company, but the security of the individual student assessments the schools would receive as a product of the screening, and the number of people — administrators, teachers and substitute teachers — who may have access to that information.

Board chair Franklin Hibbs said his concern is that one of the assessments that showed a student had mental health deficits could be tagged to that student and follow them through their school years.

Superintendent Ryan Clark said the mental health screening aspect would allow the district to provide the services its students need. Boston added that families would have the option to opt-out of the screenings if they desired.

Clark said just over a dozen districts in Kentucky are using the Terrance Metrics assessment tools and have spoke highly of them. The per-child cost of the assessment is $3.50 per student, he said.

Shrewsbury questioned the district’s liability if the screening identifies a mental health deficit but then there is inadequate follow-thru to help the student.

Board member Jim Roby asked if students learned of each other’s mental health assessments, could that information be the basis for bullying?

With additional questions about the security of the assessment information, board member Andy Stone suggested tabling the consideration of a contract with Terrance Metrics.

“I think we need more information and there needs to be more of a plan,” Shrewsbury told the board.

The board voted unanimously to table the measure.

GOVERNMENT SHUTDOWN IMPACT. District Treasurer Tracey Rogers told the board that federal government shutdown won’t impact the district’s federal grant money.

The district also receives USDA funds for food service and childcare programs. At present, the Kentucky Department of Education says there’s sufficient funding through the end of March. Should the shutdown extend beyond March, the district may need to consider using general fund money to cover any shortfall.

TAX COLLECTION. Rogers said the school district has collected 93 percent of its real estate and tangible property taxes it is due. She said the district should receive its distilled spirits money from five manufacturers by the end of January.

In other business, the board:

— recognized Nelson County Deputy Sheriff Brian Voils as the recipient of the first ever Top Tiger award for his efforts in making the local schools safer.

— elected Franklin Hibbs III to serve as the 2019 board chairman. Board member Kathy Reed was elected vice chair.

— reviewed the 2019-20 draft of the district budget.

— recognized the Lady Tigers basketball team, which has won 18 straight games to date this season.

— reviewed the Bardstown High School delivery targets with Principal Chris Pickett.

— approved a contract for legal services from Buckman, Farris & Mills law firm. The services will be on an as-needed basis.

— approved the final version of the 2019-20 school calendar.

NEXT UP. The Bardstown Board of Education next meets at noon on Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2019.

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