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.
October 8th, Lori Hershey, a FCPS central office staff member, violated the privacy of a student when she forwarded a home instruction acknowledgement letter for the student to the wrong family.
FCPS has not advised whether it contacted the family of the student whose privacy it failed to secure.
Click on the image below to view the redacted string of emails at a larger size.
October 28th, Sara Genetin, director of student services at Thomas Jefferson High School, violated the privacy of almost 60 students when she sent a failed “mail merge” to the parents of the students, with a letter stating the parents were “in receipt of this letter because you indicated on the school health form that your child has an attention deficit or other mental health condition of concern.”
According to FCPS, it contacted the parents of all the students whose privacy was violated.
Click on the image below to view the redacted letter at a larger size.
A Long History of Noncompliance
While these breaches might have been firsts for Lori and/or Sara, the students impacted weren’t necessarily having their information breached for the first time. FCPS has a long history of noncompliance and failure to secure private information of both students and staff.
Related Reading: “FERPA Violation Report Card: Fairfax County Public Schools“
A Bit of Irony
During the period these two breaches occurred, Fairfax County School Board was suing me and another parent after I published redacted pages from the FOIA request that FCPS originally provided to the other parent. The FOIA request included breaches of student and personnel file information, too. Although FCPS released statements that led the public to believe I published private information about children, I did not. FCPS failed to advise the public that the majority of the legal documents released in its FOIA request provided information related to lawsuits that had already been made public, investigations, and superintendent and school board matters.
In addition, during this period FCPS made comments to the press about how seriously it takes securing the privacy of students and staff. Unfortunately, such comments have been made by FCPS numerous times over the years, but actions matching the words have failed to materialize. Instead, the violations have continued.