Fairfax County Public Schools Continues to Violate FERPA; FCPS Released Personally-Identifiable Information for 110 More Students

Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) continues its longstanding noncompliance of Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) regulations by once again failing to maintain the security of personally identifiable information (PII) related to students.

This time, it released unredacted records for the 2022-23 math and reading SOL records for 74 students and the reading records for 36 students.

Both the unredacted math records and unredacted reading records include the full names of the students, their scaled scores on the assessments, breakdowns of correct and incorrect answers, and the levels of the questions asked of the students (high, medium, or low). Access the records at the following links (both redacted by Special Education Action in advance of publication): math records, reading records.

The reading records include the students' state testing identifiers, the school's name, and the delivery group for the students, too.

The Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) has found FCPS in noncompliance of FERPA regulations under the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act (IDEA) numerous times over the past decade, yet refuses to investigate FCPS for systemic FERPA violations.

The U.S. Department of Education's (USDOE) Student Privacy Policy Office (SPPO) has found FCPS in noncompliance, too.

Yet, the FERPA violations continue unchecked, with FCPS pointing fingers at others rather than correcting its own noncompliance. For example, in 2021, FCPS released two public statements that led the public to believe unredacted student information was published by Special Education Action. This isn't true, but that didn't stop FCPS. FCPS released these statements after FCPS parent Debra Tisler legally obtained a FOIA response from FCPS. Debra shared the FOIA request with me and I ensured student and staff PII was redacted in advance of publishing the FOIA response. FCPS took me and Debra to court to try to claw back the FOIA response. In court, one of FCPS's lawyers stated FCPS's appreciation for students' PII being removed. He specifically said, "As far as we can tell, and I believe as -- as to what was posted on the website, I think it was less than 1000 [pages] was actually posted on the website. And from what we can tell, they redacted all of the student names, and we appreciate that." FCPS later lost the case, after the judge compared it to the Pentagon Papers—and after FCPS spent over $300,000 on a case it should never have filed.

Special note: In the past, Special Education Action has included the names of the schools at which breaches occurred. In this case, the individual to whom FCPS provided the unredacted records fears retaliation by FCPS, and shared the records under the condition that information about the school be redacted, too.

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