Digital Originals

published : 2023-08-26

Texas School Withdraws Controversial NDA Imposed on Visiting Parents

NDA situation sparks debate over privacy and expression in school environments

A shot of Amber Longacre, standing outside the Kitty Hawk Middle School with a look of determination on her face, taken with a Nikon D850.

In a curious development in Texas, Amber Longacre, a mother looking to enroll her child into Kitty Hawk Middle School, was recently faced with an unexpected dilemma. She was asked to sign a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) while entering the institution as part of the visitor’s check-in procedure.

The school, under the Judson Independent School District jurisdiction, ultimately decided to dispense with the NDA inclusion in the sign-in system when Longacre expressed her objection to it.

Encouraging parental vigilance, Longacre shared, 'I shared my story because I want to encourage other parents to speak up when something seems off. There is no way to know how many parents signed the NDA without asking any questions.'

Questioning the legality of the situation, Aaron Terr, the director of public advocacy at the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression, stated, 'This non-disclosure agreement is almost certainly unconstitutional.' Terr explained NDAs are common in large corporate settings, but their application in a school setting is a distinctive case.

A close-up shot of the controversial non-disclosure agreement with a pen aside, highlighting the gravity of the situation, taken with a Canon EOS 5D Mark IV.

In defense of the school, a district spokesperson clarified that the controversial NDA was a 'default document' – a part of their check-in system. Once the issue was raised, the district agreed that the document, typically used to maintain confidentiality of proprietary business information, was mismatched to a public school milieu.

Delving into the impact of NDAs within academia, Terr continued, 'It seems like in this situation, what the school district was trying to do was prevent parents, when they enter the school building, from talking about certain information that they learned while on the premises outside of the school.'

Longacre’s attorney, Janelle Davis, remained skeptical. Despite the school district's explanation, she initiated a public information request about the system. Davis mentioned that NDAs are not unheard of in public schools, but those instances were mostly confined to specific scenarios, like parents serving on book review committees.

The peculiar requirement drew attention from other areas too. Commenting on the episode, Terr stated that the NDA read more like something from a major corporation, discussing protection of proprietary information and potential business relationships. He expressed his doubts over how these terms apply to the parent-school engagement scenario.

A candid shot of Aaron Terr, in his office with papers scattered around him, hinting at his deep involvement in the case, taken with a Sony A7R IV.

Following the uproar, the district, in a letter to Davis, confirmed that all previously signed NDAs were nullified. No further action is anticipated from Longacre's side as the district acknowledged the misjudgment and eliminated the NDA from their visitor protocol.

Expressing her relief and anticipation for the year ahead, Longacre asserted, 'I am grateful that Judson ISD recognized the error and removed the NDA from their visitor management system, and I look forward to a good school year.'

Terr lauded the removal of the NDA and questioned the motives behind such a move, observing, 'It's hard to view this as anything other than an attempt to muzzle parents and force them to remain silent about certain school-related information.' He also emphasized the parents' rights to discuss school matters freely, saying, 'What happens in the school does not have to stay inside the school.'