JCPS board fires employee for taking files, including student information

Posted on 29 July 2019 at 2:51pm

JEFFERSON CITY - The Jefferson City Board of Education decided to fire Tammy Ferry on Friday in connection with a data security breach in January.

The decision came more than two weeks after a hearing over the matter. At the time of the breach, Ferry had been working as an instructional technology coordinator with the school district.

According to a filing the district provided to KOMU 8, Ferry started transferring "thousands" of district filed to a personal account. This triggered notifications for other district staff that their files had been modified by Ferry. The district said Ferry did this without permission, and that some of the files had sensitive information about individual students.

Administrators put Ferry on leave in February. Several days later, she apparently contacted other district staff about the investigation. She later reportedly admitted to the transfer during a meeting with the district in March, and refused to delete the file copies or return them to the district.

The filing said the information transferred by Ferry included students' individual education programs (IEPs), physical therapy evaluations, therapy progress notes, student identification numbers and other records.  Ferry said she never disclosed any information from the files, and that she copied the files under the advice of attorneys for an upcoming trial. That trial is over a discrimination lawsuit Ferry filed against the Jefferson City School District in 2017.

The school board found Ferry violated policies regarding staff conduct, technology usage and data security, and she did so having had training regarding student information confidentiality and the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). The board voted to terminate Ferry's employment effective immediately.

Ferry told KOMU 8 News she did nothing wrong. 

"I did not breach student data," Ferry said. "I didn't put any student data in anybody's hands, nor would I ever."

She said she believes the decision to terminate her was done out of retaliation. 

"We presented what I thought was very solid evidence that I didn't do anything against board policy or against FERPA," Ferry said. "There's no policy guiding one way or the other in our district and it was a common practice."

Ferry said she is pursuing a civil case against the district. 

When KOMU reached out to JCPS, a spokesperson declined to comment further.