BOE approves MOU with first responders


BUCKHANNON — At the last Upshur County Board of Education (BOE) meeting Wednesday, July 6, the board approved a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the BOE and first responders.

The MOU was just one of many items on the agenda. The MOU is between the BOE and first responders regarding access to confidential student information. It is stated within the official documents from the BOE that, “The purpose of this agreement is to define the legal duties and requirements of first responders with respect to confidential student data. First responders are vital, critical and dedicated individuals to protecting health and safety.”

The agreement goes on to report that first responders are individuals “who in the early stages of an incident are responsible for the protection and preservation of life, property, evidence and environment including 911 dispatch operators, emergency medical personnel, those define as emergency responders by the Homeland Security Act of 2002, which includes federal, state and local emergency, public safety, law enforcement, emergency response, emergency medical and related personnel, as well as public health, clinical care, public works and other support personnel, which provide immediate support services during prevention, response and recovery operations.”

Furthermore, the agreement reveals that it commenced on July 6, 2022 and will end on July 30, 2023. It is also noted that the agreement may be terminated without cause by either party with a 30-day written notice and that the agreement will remain renew automatically unless terminated by one of the parties.

Other information obtain within the agreement says, the “District recognizes that in the event of an emergency incident it may be necessary for persons identified as first responders to access the Upshur County security system and cameras for purposes of responding and managing the emergency incident.” In addition, it is noted that the District does expect all first responders agree that access to the security system and cameras will only take place in the event of an emergency incident or for training purposes. Access to the cameras will be monitored by the District to identify any possible breaches of said security cameras and security systems.

Another item discussed is FERPA, which stands for the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act. The agreement states, “For purposes of FERPA, first responders will be identified as appropriate parties and the District will grant temporary access limited to the time period of the emergency. Any first responder accessing the Upshur County security and camera system in an emergency response shall comply with the provisions and regulations of FERPA in all respects. Nothing in this agreement may be construed to allow either party to maintain, use, disclose or share personally identifiable student information in a manner not allowed by state or federal law.” For clarification, the terms “disclose” and “disclosure” are defined within the agreement with the statement that the terms, “means to permit access to or the release, transfer, or other communication of Confidential Information contained in education records by any means, including oral, written, or electronic means, to any party except the party identified as the party that provided or created the record.” The district reports it ma disclose Confidential Information to first responders, “for the purpose of carrying out the terms of this agreement and the first responders having access to information shall maintain confidentiality of that information.” The agreement further defines the following information for first responders, “First responders shall, 1; not disclose an Confidential Information to any unauthorized third party, 2; make any use of confidential information except to perform its obligations under this agreement, 3; make confidential information available to any of its employees, officers or agents unless its direct supervision except those individuals authorized to use the information to manage or respond to an emergency event.”

The agreement closes in stating “All employees, officers and agents identified as possible first responders with access to the security and camera system and the Confidential Information possibly obtained from that access, must acknowledge that they are aware of and will abide by provisions of this agreement be executing the Statement of Confidentiality and Nondisclose at the end of this agreement.” It is also noted that the agreement shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of West Virginia.

With the respectful request of Superintendent Dr. Sara Lewis-Stankus to approve the MOU as presented, board member Sherry Dean made the first motion and board member Jan Craig seconded the motion. Motion passed.

The next Upshur County Board of Education meeting is scheduled to be held at the Buckhannon-Upshur High School on Tuesday, July 26 at 7 p.m. There is also a Special Board Meeting to be held Tuesday, August 2 at 10 a.m. at the Upshur County Board of Education for introductory training.

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