Judge orders JCPS administrator be reinstated 8 months after alleged data breach

JEFFERSON CITY - Jefferson City Public Schools has been ordered to rehire a school administrator fired after an alleged data breach last summer.

Tammy Ferry, an instructional technology coordinator, had her contract terminated in July after school board members determined she "willfully violated the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA)" when she transferred student information to her personal account.

During an 11 hour school board hearing, a JCPS employee said around 58,000 relevant files were stored on Ferry's personal computer.

But a ruling issued Monday by Judge Judge Jon Beetem said the board did not have cause to fire Ferry since she did not disclose the personal information to any third party.

Judge Beetem wrote the district's reasoning could be said differently as if "Ms. Ferry's reading aloud of protective information would constitute a disclosure even [if] she was locked in a soundproof room where no one else could hear her."

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 a discrimination lawsuit she filed against the district in 2017.

"I did not breach student data...I didn't put any student data in anybody's hands, nor would I ever," Ferrytold KOMU shortly after her July firing.

The judge also found the data was not any less secure in Ferry's personal Google account than it was in her professional JCPS-administered Google account.

Beetem ordered Ferry's job be reinstated and she be provided full compensation from being placed on leave in February 2019 to the March 2020 decision.

In a statement to KOMU, Ryan Burns, the district's director of communications said:

"We respectfully disagree with the Court’s decision, and we will be pursuing next steps in the legal process as we believe it is in the best interest of our staff and students to do so."

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