TEF Iowa and the Kirkwood Institute released a report on Thursday detailing the Des Moines Public School District placing documents on its website that contained highly confidential information about specific requests for open enrollment.
Kirkwood and TEF Iowa heavily redacted the documents, but the original documents contained on DMPD’s website include no redactions. Names of students were available for the public to see so long as they knew where to look.
Iowa law allows school districts to adopt voluntary diversity plans which opens the door to denying open enrollment to students whose transfers would harm the district’s plan.
The details included in documents included in DMPS school board packets and prepared for school board members are “shocking.”
“There is no consideration given for the actual best interests of the children involved,” the report states. “Time and again, the district rejects a parent’s concerns if those concerns are not also already held by district personnel.”
One student requested open enrollment because she had been raped by another student and doesn’t feel safe in the school.
The family let the school know about the incident but couldn’t get into details due to police involvement.
The document states the family “did not give a case number or any other details.” It adds that “DMPS is unaware of the specifics but we can accommodate [the student] at another high school if she no longer feels safe at North.”
Alan Ostergren, President and Chief Counsel of Kirkwood Institute, called the documents “deeply troubling.”
“A student who has reported sexual assault apparently has to jump through the Des Moines Public Schools’ bureaucratic hoops to justify why she doesn’t feel safe in the district.”
Additional documents detail open enrollment requests based on harassment, bullying and other problems in adjustment to the district by students. Failure by the district to accommodate a student’s health problems was reported by some families. Others cited specific family concerns like changing jobs.
“I think that most people associated with the school district would agree that the parents having the freedom to choose what’s best for their child is of utmost importance,” said TEF Iowa Deputy Director Walt Rogers. “It would appear that this system, under the guise of diversity, is doing just the opposite.”
Ostergren said normally nobody would know about how DMPS handles open enrollment.
“It is only because the district carelessly put the sensitive documents on their website that we learn how callously the district treats its students,” he added. “It is clear that Iowa law needs to change to no longer allow districts to have this aribtrary power over their students.”