Tennessee mom wants change after law kept her from seeing bus surveillance video

Posted at 1:55 PM, Mar 12, 2019
and last updated 2019-03-12 19:22:29-04

LEWISBERG, Tenn. (WTVF) — A Lewisberg mother is hoping lawmakers will pass a bill to change a state and federal educational law after her 5-year-old daughter was tickled and kissed on the lips by a 12-year-old student.

The incident happened in September when Brooke Wilkerson's daughter was riding on a Marshall County school bus.

"My daughter started kindergarten. She was super excited about riding the bus and about six weeks I was asked her how her day went, how was the bus ride and she started crying,” Wilkerson said.

Wilkerson learned about a tickling game an older student would play with her daughter. The older student told Wilkerson’s daughter not to tell her mom about the secret tickling game. When the mother asked school officials to see the surveillance video they suggested she contact the Marshall County Sheriff's office. After repeated requests, Wilkerson said she would have to get a subpoena and kept getting the run around.

The law in question is the Family Educational and Privacy Rights law (FERPA). It was created to allow parents access to their student's educational record and prevents releasing it to others.

“It’s interpreted in many different ways, so we’re hoping to create this bill so that it can be very clear what FERPA is about and what’s allowed and what’s not allowed. We’re asking for transparency so that when an incident does occur that all of the parents involved can see the footage first-hand,” Wilkerson said.

In a statement, Marshall County School board director Jacob Sorrells said he understands the concerns of parents and does not think the request to view the video is unusual or ridiculous.

"We have been told repeatedly by our school board attorney and others that both school and bus surveillance video is part of the students' educational record. As such it should be treated the same way as a student's personal education file and is not to be shared with anyone other than the parents or legal guardian. If the video contained only footage of the parent's student alone we would be happy to show the parent. However, it is very rare that a school or bus video only displays one student. I welcome the opportunity to share any and all video with parents upon request if this law is passed. In many ways that would make the job of our administrators easier," Sorrells said.

On Wednesday afternoon, Wilkerson will talk in front of a special education committee hoping for their support.

She started an online petition asking for the support of others and to share her story.