Bizarre demand letter from our local school

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A letter addressed to me arrived from our children's school today:

John S. Sheffield, Principal
Heritage Elementary

November 27, 2007

Michael Cleverly

Dear Mr. Cleverly,

As of this date, we have not had any response from you to our recent request for a copy of your child's birth certificate. In order to comply with State and Federal law, we must have a copy of this document on file in order for your child to attend school.

We must have a copy of the birth certificate in our file by Monday, December 10, 2007. We are required to notify local law enforcement officials if you fail to comply with this requirement.

If you do not have a certified copy of your child's birth certificate, you can call the Office of Vital Records at 538-6380 for information about how to obtain a copy. Blessing or Christening certificates are not valid for this purpose. If we can be of any assistance, please call the school at [phone].

We would appreciate your prompt attention to this matter.


/s/ John S. Sheffield, Principal

Why, suddenly, after my kids have been attending Heritage Elementary for years does the school want a copy of one of their birth certificates? And which one? And what exactly will they use it for?

And what happens after December 10th and the dreaded referral to local law enforcement? What is that all about? Will Layton PD post a uniformed officer out front to make sure that only Meghan and Jacob, but not Caleb (say) enter the school?

Shauna would probably prefer we send copies of all three of our school-age childrens' birth certifiates, but I think it is wholly appropriate to occasionally push back and require people who want personally identifying information (or identity documents in this case) to articulate precisely why they need them, what entitles them to require them, etc.

This is the response I've drafted which I intend to send in the morning.

Michael A. Cleverly

November 29, 2007

John S. Sheffield, Principal
Heritage Elementary

Dear Mr. Sheffield,

I am in receipt of your letter dated November 27, 2007 requesting a copy of "[my] child's birth certificate" prior to "December 10, 2007" on pain of their not being able to attend school and a referral to local law enforcement.

Although the opening paragraph of your letter makes reference to some other "recent request," this is the first time this matter has been brought to my attention. I am writing to solicit additional information I need you to provide before I will be able to comply with your request.

In your letter you state, "in order to comply with State and Federal law, we must have a copy of this document on file in order for your child to attend school." As an initial matter, I ask that you provide citation(s) to the relavent state AND federal statues you are both alluding & making your request persuant to.

As you will find by consulting your enrollment records, I have three children presently enrolled at Heritage Elementary: Meghan (5th grade); Caleb (4th grade); and Jacob (2nd grade).

Your letter requests "a copy of [my] child's birth certificate." Your use of the singular "child" instead of the plural "children" indicates your need for only one of my children's birth certificates; however, your letter does not identify which one. I respectfully request that you articulate, in writing, precisely which child you are referring to.

I am at a loss as to why you suddenly need a copy of one of my children's birth certificate. My children have been happily enrolled at your school since the 2002-2003 (Meghan), 2003-2004 (Caleb), and 2005-2006 (Jacob) school years. I would like to understand what is precipitating this sudden urgent request years after we first enrolled each of them in Kindergarten at Heritage Elementary.

I look forward to receiving your prompt reply on or before December 7, 2007 (to allow time to comport myself with your request before the December 10, 2007 deadline).

Best regards,

/s/ Michael A. Cleverly

Am I being unreasonable?

—Michael A. Cleverly


Kathryn: [ mail | www | link ]

No, I do not think you are being unreasonable.

Fri, 30 Nov 2007, 05:10

anna: [ mail | www | link ]

yeah, stick it to him! if he's not going to be specific with you--and I love the threatening of the police, btw, since they've obviosly requested this info like fifty times from you or something--then you can send him a letter back demanding the info as to why this urgent need of identity documentation is now necessary + a deadline of your own! love it! you go, brotha man!

*anxiously waiting the principal's reply*

Fri, 30 Nov 2007, 09:45

Russ Lyman: [ mail | www | link ]

They did something very similar in Washington D.C. last week. They use the color of law to force people to do things that they, in reality and law, do not have to do. And they are using a trick, the trick works like this: They say that they need you to comply with some "policy" of the school or school district so your kids cannot attend school. If you fail to comply then they suspend/expel your kid(s). Then they refer you to law enforcement for the actual LAW of truancy. Generally speaking there is NO LAW that requires you to provide the school with a birth certificate. The LAW part they are talking about is the truancy they TRICK you into.

What they did in Washington D.C. is the very same thing, but they wanted 2000 kids to be forcibly vaccinated when there was no such law and there were, in actuality, waivers for such a "POLICY" of the school district. I would fight this like it was HELL itself! Encroachment into what is POLICY and what is LAW needs to be clear and defined. This is essentially the government stating that you need to provide "Your Paper's Please" for your children! These fascist actions should not be honored nor respected with compliance!

Fri, 30 Nov 2007, 17:17

eliza: [ mail | www | link ]

I LOVE it, you definitely need to send them YOUR letter!

Fri, 30 Nov 2007, 21:45

Becca: [ mail | www | link ]

Weird! I wonder if we got one too. I was out of town. Hmmm...

Sat, 01 Dec 2007, 10:38

Eric: [ mail | www | link ]
Hmmm... Very interesting. I can't wait to see the response. I believe we "had" to provide birth certificates for our children to register for Kindergarten, but I don't remember the details.

As a side issue, did you know that salary information for Utah school districts is available to the public? Here's a link to Davis Schools salaries, conveniently sorted with the highest first:

Sat, 01 Dec 2007, 10:55

Dossy Shiobara: [ mail | www | link ]

If this is legitimate, that's pretty scary.

When I first read the letter you received, the first thought that popped into my head was "wow, what an awesome social engineering hack for identity theft." I mean, imagine what you could do with thousands of kids' birth certificates in, say, 5-10 years?

Of course, it's easy to verify the return address to show that it's going to the school, but what if folks don't check? Better: what if they included a SASE with the letter with the send-to address to a different address? Who would check?

In 5-10 years, who would be able to trace the ID theft back to some seemingly innocuous request for a birth certificate?

Regardless of whether this is a legitimate request from the school or not, a healthy level of skepticism when anyone asks you for sensitive identifying documents should be used. Can you imagine how many people blindly complied with the request? What if it were a malicious phishing attack? Ouch.

Sun, 02 Dec 2007, 13:42

J: [ mail | www | link ]

Just a suggestion...I "happened" across your blog, and have found many of your thoughts and articles interesting. Considering how concerned you seem about your "private" info going to the "wrong" people...I thought it appropriate to post another sidenote regarding personal/private information.

--I now know where your children go to school based on the above letter, and the name of your wife, your children's names and ages and grades. I haven't taken the time to search more of your blog, but I'm guessing there's more info that could easily tip me off to more private details of your life and that of your family. My intention is not to alarm you or make you paranoid-I happen to be a mom of 4 children and find that I have enough thank you...but I have made the mistake of putting too much info on the web and happen to now understand the danger in doing so. I know Dave Smart (Elizabeth Smart's uncle), and he's commented many times about how naive "we" are about our private information floating around the web. So--my suggestion is to omit or make up fictional info to go in place of your actual info for you, your family and geographical information. Good luck-

Sun, 02 Dec 2007, 23:51

Rose: [ mail | www | link ]

You make me laugh! I really miss having you around on an almost daily basis.

As usual, your thoughts are articulate as well as entertaining.

Thu, 06 Dec 2007, 20:28

kim: [ mail | www | link ]

i'm trying to get a hold of an elder cleverly that served in Resistancia Argentina somewhere between 1999 and 2000...would that happen to be you? if so, let me know!

Wed, 12 Dec 2007, 09:41

Jamie: [ mail | www | link ]

They are sending the letter because state law requires it. They need to know the identity of your child. They need to know that your child is who you say he/she is. The link is to the law in Utah...

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