No More Playing Hookie: FCC Finds That The TCPA’s Emergency Purposes Exemption is Broad Enough to Allow Schools to Report Truancy to Parents (and Other Important Rulings)

AttendanceHuck Finns of America beware. There will be a lot less time spent at the ole’ fishing hole during schools hours starting next year thanks to a declaratory ruling from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) issued on August 4, 2016. Effective immediately schools and teachers may leverage automated technologies to send text alerts and pre-recorded messages to parents to swiftly inform them of their child’s unexcused absences.

It’s all in the name of child safety according to the Commission’s ruling. Specifically, the FCC finds that notifying parents of an unexcused absence may affect the health and safety of a student who did not arrive at school or did not stay at school as such unaccounted for children are (presumably) in some sort of danger. The Commission also expanded the “emergency purposes” exemption for school communications to include information about weather closures, fire, health risks, threats, and unexcused absences. The FCC found that these types of calls also may “affect the health and safety of students, faculty and other school staff members.”

More pertinently for non-educators and pupils, the Commission doubled down on its “closely related” formulation for assessing the scope of consent deemed given when a number is provided by a consumer. For instance, the FCC clarified that calls about non-school events – such as those about local community events – likely do not qualify as “closely related” to the educational purposes for which parents might provide their number to the school.  And with regard to utilities companies, the FCC determined that consumers who provide a wireless telephone number to Edison have given prior express consent to receive notices regarding  unplanned service outages, meter work, tree trimming, or eligibility for subsidized or low-cost services, etc., but not to receive debt collection calls for some reason.

Doesn’t it seem like the FCC is just making things up as it goes along at this point?

The FCC’s Declaratory Ruling can be found here.

Eric Troutman

Eric Troutman

Eric is one of the country’s prominent Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) defense attorneys, having served as lead defense counsel on over 30 nationwide TCPA class actions and having handled hundreds of individual TCPA cases. He also “wrote the book” on TCPA defense, having co-authored the nation’s first comprehensive practice guide on the subject. In addition, he has helped spearhead the banking industry’s push for TCPA clarity before the Federal Communications Commission and has assisted on numerous appeals addressing hot-button TCPA issues.

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