October 8th and 28th of 2021, Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) again breached the privacy of its students, to include sharing mental health-related information for about 60 Thomas Jefferson High School students.
[This article was updated January 11, 2021, to include more FERPA violations.]
FCPS has been breaching the privacy of staff and students for years.
This article details FCPS FERPA violations between 2017 and 2021. It includes breaches FCPS inadvertently provided to me, breaches related to my own family (and about which I filed state complaints), breaches other FCPS families shared with me, as well as the hacking of FCPS that occurred in 2020.
Fairfax County Public Schools Found in Violation of FERPA; Virginia Department of Education Refuses to Find FCPS at Fault for Systemic Noncompliance
November 26, 2021, Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) was found in noncompliance of FERPA (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act) regulations by the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE).
VDOE concluded that that the legal invoices at the core of the investigation, which contain personally identifiable information (PII) about children, “are maintained by the school division, therefore they are education records under FERPA and this matter is within our jurisdiction.” In addition, VDOE rejected the following argument posed by FCPS, thus acknowledging that initials constitute PII:
“Under the definition of PII, information is PII if it is possible to identify a student with reasonable certainty. In this case, students E1 and E2 have a different last name as the parent, and so the disclosure of parent name does not make the students identifiable.”
Although VDOE determined the matter in its jurisdiction and once again found FCPS noncompliance, VDOE refused to place weight on the thousands of students whose privacy FCPS has breached over the past five years, and did not “characterize” FCPS’s noncompliance as systemic.
For over a month, Fairfax County School Board’s (FCSB) legal actions prevented me and Debra Tisler from disseminating materials she received in response to a FOIA request she submitted.
This week the censorship shackles came off.
Included in this article are all 1,316 pages that FCSB tried to prevent us from sharing.
[This article was first published September 24, 2021. September 30, 2021, a Fairfax County Judge ordered that Debra Tisler and I not disseminate the materials she received in response to a FOIA request. I took down the article, which included documents from the FOIA response. This came after Fairfax County School Board (FCSB) took legal action against me and Debra. Today, November 16, 2021, after over a month of Debra and I being censored, Judge Richard Gardiner struck down FCSB’s unconstitutional attempts to shut down our speech. Hence, this article is live again. Not exactly a breach of children’s or personnel privacy as FCSB tried to indicate, is it?]
Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) leaked almost 1500 pages of its own legal invoices—and again breached the privacy of students, parents, and FCPS staff. The documents vary from being partially redacted to being entirely free of redactions.
In addition to sharing unredacted information about Due Process Hearings and Equity and Employee Relations Complaints (including staff grievances and dismissals), the following is a short list of some of the information within the documents:
Heartbreaking information related to children who died on FCPS’s watch, as well as the names of the children and their parents was included, as was information about FCPS’s restraint and seclusion problems.
Cyber Hacking Investigation
Coalition for TJ Lawsuit
Recall of Elaine Tholen
[This article was updated November 11, 2021, to include more FERPA violations.]
Fairfax County Public Schools Office of Special Education Procedural Support has a history of failing to secure confidential information about children, to the point that one could say privacy breaches are an area in which FCPS OSEPS excels.
A parent recently asked me about the problems with Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) special education program. I explained that the problems aren’t new. They aren’t related to a “regime change” at FCPS nor are they related to one political party or another being at the top.
FCPS has been failing children in its special education program for decades—and the legal bills and other documents exist to prove it.
What to Do?
Change starts with advocacy, with kindness, with help.
Virginia Department of Education to Investigate Fairfax County Public Schools for Systemic Privacy Violations
The Virginia Department of Education is finally investigating Fairfax County Public Schools for systemic privacy violations.
VDOE has always had a reason NOT to initiate a systemic investigation — even after it was provided an internal FCPS document in which FCPS itself stated concerns with privacy breaches.
What changed VDOE’s mind this time? I have no idea.
Here’s hoping for a thorough investigation—and for the noncompliance to stop.
Many of you have heard by now that Fairfax County Public Schools has taken legal actions against me and another parent.
I’m in awe of the kindness and overwhelming support that complete strangers have shared in the past few days. It’s extraordinary — and truly appreciated. The journalists, parents, lawyers, advocates for children, advocates for free speech, and so many others.
FCPS’s legal actions are a sideshow.
Please don’t let them distract you from much bigger stories.
Fairfax County Public Schools Threatens Legal Action Against Parents Who Exercised Their First Amendment Rights And Right To FOIA
Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) has threatened legal action against me and against fellow parent Debra Tisler in response to us exercising our first amendment rights and our rights to FOIA.
What did we do?
We shared a behind-the-scenes view that indicates FCPS is aware of the very issues parents have been concerned about for years. (As well as HIPAA failures, stolen credentials, negotiations to extend Scott Brabrand’s contract, the investigations into the cyber hacking and Blackboard failures, wastes of funds, and much more.)
Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) is at fault for another FERPA violation, this time for a Chesterbrook Elementary School student and family.
The document is a student’s care card, which (depending on the student) can include sensitive information such as medical issues, prescription medications, medical professionals the child is seeing, and so on.
July 14, 2021, I published the article “Fairfax County Public Schools Breaches Privacy of Thousands of Students; FERPA Noncompliance Continues”, which details Fairfax County Public Schools’ (FCPS) failure to keep thousands of students’ privacy secure.
I found one more breach.
- Fairfax County Public Schools Withheld Records from Office of Civil Rights; FCPS Didn’t Provide Full Response to OCR’s Investigation Data Request 08.15.2022
- UPDATE: Fairfax County Public Schools FOIA’d Parents’ Communications with Office of Civil Rights 08.15.2022
- Accommodation Break Down: Flash Pass 08.14.2022
- The Language of IEPs and 504s: The Problem with “Engage” 08.13.2022
- It’s the Law: Comprehensive Evaluations 08.12.2022
- Fairfax County Public Schools Provided Recovery Services to Less Than 1% of Students 08.11.2022