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Let the record show.

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My younger son will graduate high school with something I never had: A copy — indeed, the original copy — of his Permanent Record.

I was just now reading one of several letters from his high school, outlining the pomp, circumstance, requirements and fun-days that will occupy him between now and graduation in early June.

It included the following paragraph:

Student Health & Permanent Records
With the exception of the Official Transcript, all Student Records (including Health
records, and Student Permanent Records) will be signed for and given to the seniors
at graduation rehearsal. These records may contain immunization information
required by many colleges. Please note that [name of high school redacted] does NOT keep copies
of these records, or of your diploma; giving these records to you will serve as their
“destruction.” The only record we keep on file is your Official Transcript.

I can remember wondering for quite a while what was in my Permanent Record; how long my school district retained it; and whether I could just stroll in to district headquarters after turning 18 and ask for a copy. I was never quite roused enough to actually try, back in the day. Thirty-some years after my graduation, whatever was in my particular manila folder is long gone now.

For years the Permanent Record seemed like it had to be a fascinating document. When a K-12 public education is all you have achieved — and for that matter, when you’re still working to achieve it — your Permanent Record looms large in the imagination.

But when I look back on it now, I realize it was probably blank, or close to it.

Other than a trip or two to the principal’s office in elementary school, I toed the line; there were no individual trips to Detention I can remember, and certainly no suspensions. And no one was writing down the little items of everyday life — “fell down in gym class and totally embarrassed himself” or reeked horribly of Drakkar Noiror whatever.

So really, my Permanent Record — if pursued — would probably have consisted of 12 years’ worth of quarterly report cards and a note saying, “Congrats, kid. Now get outta town.”

I dunno — maybe my Presidential Physical Fitness Exams results were in there (doubtful) or the results of the in-school hearing tests I took every fall (more likely). Nothing I would really want to see again.

My son doesn’t have a disciplinary record either … not that I’m aware of.

(It occurs to me as I type this that giving away student records at graduation gives the school district a clean pass out of ever commenting on former students’ disciplinary histories. If the next Charles Manson graduates from this high school, and reporters in 2045 are probing the roots of his antisocial behavior as he waits to stand trial, the district will shrug: “We don’t keep disciplinary records. We give them to the student at graduation as a form of ‘destruction.'” And the reporters will sigh and start looking up the names of surviving faculty members, to see if they remember anything untoward. This whole scenario assumes there are still news reporters in 2045.)

Anyway, back to my son. He moved into this district after his freshman year as part of the Great Family Resettlement. His current district has only been keeping notes on him for three years. I assume his old district in PA and his new one didn’t exchange notes — that seems unlikely to me. So, his Permanent Record is probably the slimmest of documents.

I might enjoy seeing it anyway, just to see what one looks like.

4 responses »

  1. This strikes me as a strange direction for a public school to take. I wonder if it’s widespread. On one hand, it seems like a simple way to absolve them of anything that happened to a student during their stay, and therefore make future lawsuits less likely. On the other hand, the student has THE official copy, and conceivably could doctor that and attempt to pass it by authorities as THE official copy, and the school has nothing to prove it wrong!

    Reply
    • This points the way, perhaps, to a larger question:
      What other authority would want to see a Permanent Record of schooling (I am unable to write the phrase with anything other than capital letters)?
      Would you need to show it to enlist in the military? To apply for a particular kind of job?

      Maybe the bottom line is that a Permanent Educational Record is really only of interest to the school district, and once the kid walks out the door for the last time, they might as well hand it over to the kid, ’cause otherwise they’re just wasting time and energy maintaining a record no one else needs.

      If your disciplinary record gets truly serious – like, if you draw a gun on somebody in the school parking lot – that crosses over and becomes a criminal record, which is another beast entirely, and more relevant to life in broader society than just getting bunches of detentions.

      Reply
  2. School systems still maintain physical files? I don’t think I’ve ever seen my high school transcript. I’m sure I asked my guidance counselor to send some out.

    Reply
    • Good point. The only response that comes to mind is that physical files are not hackable. (Hard copies locked in a file cabinet may be more secure than any kind of database for tracking Permanent Records.)

      Absences are probably part of the Permanent Record, and *that* info would have been fun to see and play with for about three minutes. How many days did I miss from K through 12? I would bet my attendance record was 98 or 99 percent of available days.
      I managed not to suffer any of those injuries that knock one out of school for prolonged periods.

      Reply

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