Sunday, October 19, 2008


Our phone rang a little before 9PM last night and the caller, a woman with a very pleasant voice, asked to speak with either one of two of my two older (adult) children, whom she asked for by first name. I asked who was calling and she gave her name, which matched the caller ID, and said she was a teacher in the area and was calling on behalf of the Obama campaign, along with some of her colleagues.

I told her they weren't available (my daughter doesn't even live with us any more) and I was pretty sure my older boy wasn't interested in talking to her. So she asked if I planned to support Obama in the election and of course I told her that my wife and I were voting for McCain. She pleasantly thanked me for my time and the call ended.

After I hung up, I thought how odd it was that she called and specifically asked to speak to two of the "kids" in the house and not to my wife or me. Then it dawned on me...where might a group of local teachers get a list of young adults of voting age, along with their phone numbers? School records. Possibly older ones, because my youngest is also now old enough and registered to vote.

When one considers that teachers' unions throughout the country are pretty much unanimously united behind Obama, it wouldn't surprise me in the least to learn that this is a wide-spread practice.

So, I fired off an e-mail to the GOP field operative running the local McCain campaign office and related the episode. Let's see if that stirs things up.

Update: Ace of Spades link. Thanks Ace!

Update: Possible explanations beside actual enrollment records are: (1) Student directory, (2) PTA/PTSA records, and (3) voter rolls provided by local party offices.

(1) still sounds like inappropriate use of that type of information and unlikely since my son says he opted out of inclusion in that, (2) again, inappropriate use, and (3) begs the question of why they didn't also ask for my youngest boy, who's been on the voter rolls for over a year.

In any event, I'm now in contact with a local newspaper reporter who's interested in looking into this. I'll put up another post with further developments.


Tyler said...

I forwarded this to to local McCain office manager and a few others, I'll let you know if I hear anything back. Fuck teachers, the education system sucks anyway.

Eric said...

Thanks...if they leave a comment with contact info, I'll get back with them.

Anonymous said...

This would probably be a serious FERPA issue ( ) that should be reported.

Of course, OCORN has not hesitated to violate other regulations, so I wouldn't particularly be surprised.

Stephanie said...

Any possibility they bought the mailing lists from the PTA or PTSA association? What are the privacy issues there?

I would call around to some of my kids' friend's parents and see if they had the same calls. Dollars to doughnuts, they did.

I would call the school and county office on Monday and report the issue. I would then demand to know how unknown (to you) self identified school teachers had BOTH of your kids names. They aren't using current school registrations. School registrations only reference one kid per registration - there are no cross identifiers to show siblings in the system. They had to get this info from the county office or the PTA association.

I would then call the head of your school PTA and the head of the county PTA. I would get them on record.

I would record the phone calls and inform them that you are doing so. If they hang up or refuse comment, you still have that recorded, too.

I would then call the local media and the local paper and tell them the whole thing and the response of the school, the county office and the PTAs.

It is extremely illegal and a firing offense to do this. It is also not a firing offense that is appealable to a board or union rep. IIRC, it is both a state and federal offense and cause to have a license pulled permanently.

My hubby is a teacher and that is some serious sh!t to have happen.

Eric said...

Thanks for the insights. I'll have to look into FERPA. And I hadn't thought about the PTSA angle. That's a distinct possibility.

Alice H said...

We've been dealing with some FERPA issues with my son's school, so I've got a little bit of an idea of what the law says, but by no means am I a lawyer. My gut says this isn't a FERPA violation. We had a situation where the school directory was being used/misused, depending on which side you were on, to contact parents regarding the school's governance board election. FERPA applies more to actual school records, i.e. grades, disciplinary action, etc.

If I had a guess, based on my very limited experience with voter registration records and campaign calling, I'd say that the local DNC office got a copy of the voter rolls (which is legal) and sorted based on who had recently registered, or by date of birth, then by alphabetical order, so if there were two or more in the same household, they'd come up one right after another. When I was calling this weekend, we were instructed to look at the next record when we were calling to see if we were calling two members of the same household. Having a teacher or group of teachers call younger voters who might listen to them kind of makes sense.

If you think about the information you gave when you filled out your voter registration, you can get an idea of just how many different variables a data set can be sorted and filtered on.

But hey, if you've got time to kill, you could still file a bunch of complaints. If your school district is anything like the districts I've been around, though, you might have better luck if you don't mention which campaign they were calling from.

Mark said...

As Charles Johnson often says "Imagine my surprise".

It doesn't matter if the approach used 'protected' information or not. It's the appearance of impropriety. After all, isn't it the appearance of impropriety that drove the US Attorney non-scandal scandal? Or the other Dem tactic: "It's the seriousness of the charge that is troubling..."

Eric said...

Alice H: If they'd been using voter registration rolls to hunt down young voters (definitely a target demographic for Obama campaigners), one would think they'd also have asked for my youngest, who's been on the voter rolls for over a year.

I'm in contact now with a reporter for the local paper who's interested in the story. I'll let her ferret out the details.