Senator Tommy Williams
P.O. Box 12068, State Capitol
Austin, Texas 78711
Tel. (512) 463-0104

February 23, 2005
Contact: Lauren Hutton (512) 463-0104

Williams' Senate Bill 256 fights to protect Texas students' privacy

AUSTIN -- Sen. Tommy Williams, R-The Woodlands, took another step forward in protecting Texas students' right to privacy Tuesday, February 22, when the Senate Education Committee voted Senate Bill 256 out of committee.

Unbeknownst to most parents, any party from a released sex offender to a mass marketing company can legally gain access to Texas school children's directory information under the current law.

But Williams hopes to change this undesirable situation with the implementation of Senate Bill 256, calling for Texas school districts to inform parents and guardians of their children's right to privacy.

"This bill is a practical, common sense solution because it gives parents the right to make a clear and informed decision regarding the release of their children's directory information," Williams said.

Directory information, which includes a student's name, address, telephone number, email address, date and place of birth, participation in school sports or activities, weight and height of students on athletic teams, dates of attendance, school awards, school student most recently attended and photos, is currently available as public record.

As a solution, Senate Bill 256 requires school districts to provide parents with an explanation of the federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, allowing parents to decide what information, if any, to make available to the public. The bill allows parents to designate certain directory information for school-only purposes, such as use in a class yearbook.

The Texas Senate will start hearing bills mid-March, after the Legislature hits the 60-day mark.

First elected in 1996 to the Texas House of Representatives, Tommy Williams was later elected to the Senate in 2002 and re-elected in 2004. He represents Senate District 4, covering all or portions of Montgomery, Harris, Liberty, Chambers, Jefferson and Orange counties. Williams serves as Vice Chair of the State Affairs Committee and as a member of the Finance, Education and Criminal Justice committees.