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City officials will investigate whistleblowing Lehman HS teachers

The Bloomberg administration will investigate the whistleblowing teachers at Herbert Lehman High School who are accusing the school’s principal Janet Saraceno of tampering with students’ grades.

The teachers approached GothamSchools with students’ transcripts after some of them had submitted the same transcripts to the Office of Special Investigations, but had not heard back for months and assumed the investigation was dead. A spokesman for the DOE, David Cantor, said the investigation into the alleged grading manipulation is still open.

The city now plans to investigate the teachers as well.

Students’ education records are protected under the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act Regulations, commonly known as FERPA. Transcripts can be shared provided that “personally identifiable information” is not transmitted.

“All I can say is we are going to investigate the release of the student records publicly to the press,” Cantor said.

“The privacy of student records is protected by federal law. School staff are not permitted to provide their students’ transcripts to reporters,” he wrote in an email.

Mayor Bloomberg is hinging his campaign partly on a claim of raising graduation rates. The story at Lehman offers his opponent, Comptroller Bill Thompson, ammunition to fuel his claim that Bloomberg’s school success is exaggerated.

The transcripts given to GothamSchools reporters contained records of students’ grades as well as grade-change forms that Saraceno, an assistant principal, and a teacher had signed. Students’ identifying information had been redacted.

Former Lehman teachers stood by their decision to share the documents.

The principal “has a three-year contract and it takes the DOE an average of two years to complete any investigation,” one teacher said. “So she gets her bonus for increasing graduation rates and we’re supposed to keep quiet?”

A spokesman for the United Federation of Teachers declined to defend the teachers, saying only that the sharing of students’ transcripts is regulated by FERPA and the teachers union has no rules about it.