Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Thousands of FERPA violations- SPS legal consultant releases vast amounts of SPED student information.

A legal firm used by Seattle Public Schools to fight against parents who advocate for their children has illegally emailed out :

Multiple lists that name every student in special education in the district, their date of birth, what school they go to and their district disability designation (SM1a, SM2, medically fragile, etc) among other things

Sp-Ed transportation lists with student names, addresses, pick up locations and disability

Copies of 173 consent for reevaluation forms with student and parent names and addresses for various students throughout the district

Complete IEPs for 38 Roosevelt High students, these appear to be the entire case load of one IEP manager at RHS

Several different lists of RHS students that had disciplinary action taken against them, these lists included the students names, date of and type of infractions, disciplinary measures taken and the race of the students

Multiple lists of the entire RHS student roster with their end of course exam scores, AP scores and other test scores.

300.572 Safeguards.
(a) Each participating agency shall protect the confidentiality of personally identifiable information at collection, storage, disclosure, and destruction stages.
(b) One official at each participating agency shall assume responsibility for ensuring the confidentiality of any personally identifiable information.
(c) All persons collecting or using personally identifiable information must receive training or instruction regarding the State's policies and procedures under ¤300.127 and 34 CFR part 99.
(d) Each participating agency shall maintain, for public inspection, a current listing of the names and positions of those employees within the agency who may have access to personally identifiable information.
(Authority: 20 U.S.C. 1412(a)(8), 1417(c))

¤300.577 Department use of personally identifiable information.
If the Department or its authorized representatives collect anypersonally identifiable information regarding children with disabilities that is not subject to 5 U.S.C. 552a (the Privacy Act of 1974), the Secretary applies the requirements of 5 U.S.C. 552a (b)(1)-(2), (4)-(11); (c); (d); (e)(1), (2), (3)(A), (B), and (D), (5)-(10); (h); (m); and (n); and the regulations implementing those provisions in 34 CFR part 5b.

So who calls the shots at SPS when it comes to choosing outside legal consultants?

Maybe this is a clue?


From: English, Ron
Sent: Monday, May 19, 2014 4:31 PM
To: Banda, Jose L
Cc: SchoolBoard
Subject: Re: Conflict of interest in the legal dept.
I have forwarded this to the City Ethics Office for their action. I will note that we have spent
about $1 million annually on outside legal fees of all kinds and that I made the decision to
hire the Curran firm.
I welcome a review of our litigation management practices.
Ron English
General Counsel

Below is taken from SPS web site, it describes the legal dept areas of responsibility 

Office of General Counsel


The General Counsel’s Office provides legal services to the Seattle Public Schools, including the School Board, Superintendent, and District Administrators, to ensure legal compliance across all District operations and reduce potential liability. 
Staff attorneys represent and counsel clients on a variety of practice areas:
• Ethics Policy Compliance ... WOOPS
• School Board Operations
• Open Public Meetings Act Compliance ....WOOPS
• Litigation Management and Tort Claims ...WOOPS
• Facilities and Capital Projects
• Contracting and Procurement
• District and School Operations
• Policy and Procedure Development and Compliance ...WOOPS
• Property Management & Property Sales
• Legislative Analysis
• Labor and Employment Issues
• Educational Operations Issues
• Student 504 Accommodation ...WOOPS
• Special Education ...WOOPS
• Student Issues
• Public Records and Student Records Compliance  ... WOOPS
• Risk Management (Risk and Loss Prevention)
• District Safety and Security
• Constitutional Issues

Here's the SPS response to the FERPA violations.

Dear Seattle Public Schools families,

Late Tuesday night Seattle Public Schools learned that a law firm retained by the district to handle a complaint against the district inadvertently sent personally identifiable student information to an individual involved in the case. The district promptly removed the law firm from the case and is working to ensure that all improperly released records are retrieved or destroyed.

Protection of student privacy is of critical importance, and this inadvertent release of student information is unacceptable. Confidential information about several thousand of our students was improperly released. They are primarily Special Education students. Seattle Public Schools is reporting the release of student information to the U.S. Department of Education and is asking for their assistance in investigating how this happened.

Seattle Public Schools is looking into the exact extent of the disclosure and will be sending follow-up communications to affected families.

We appreciate the action of the individual who received these documents in reporting this to the district so that we could quickly move to retrieve the student information and notify families.

Dr. Larry Nyland
Interim Superintendent

Seattle Public Schools letter to parents:

November 14, 2014
Thank you for your email regarding the unauthorized release of student information by an outside law firm contracted by the district. We fully appreciate and acknowledge the concern this has created for you and your family.
We realize our initial communications with families may not contain sufficient information to help alleviate your concerns and that is because we are currently in the process of confirming which students and families are impacted, what type of information was shared, and working to retrieve and destroy these information files. However, we did feel it was important to inform parents of the situation as soon as possible and for them to hear directly from us regarding this important matter.
We do want to confirm a few important facts for you:
1. The student information that was shared by the law firm was given to a family member who is representing the student. At this time, we believe no other individuals have access to this information. We immediately requested that files be returned or destroyed.
2. A large majority of the student information released involves special education student files.
3. We have removed the responsible law firm from this case and have been in contact with the appropriate state and federal agencies to confirm the appropriate course of action.
Families should know that the district takes this incident very seriously and are working quickly to confirm more details in order to communicate directly with our parents and families. Families of impacted students will receive a subsequent communication, and all families will get an update on the districts response to this issue.
We appreciate your support and patience as we carefully investigate and respond to the critically important need to protect student information.
Dr. Larry Nyland

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