This VA School District Has Threatened to Sue Concerned Parents Who Requested Public Records

Debra Tisler submitted a Freedom of Information request to Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS), because she and other parents are concerned about certain matters in the school system. For example, some parents believe there have been HIPAA failures and credentials stolen.

Tisler paid for and received 1,500 documents, which she shared with another concerned parent, Callie Oettinger. So why is the school district threatening to file legal action against them? Oettinger posted some of the documents online, and the school district demands that the parents remove and return the records.

“FCPS asking us to return records that were legally obtained is essentially an improper prior restraint under First Amendment law,” Oettinger wrote. “In regard to FCPS’s demand that I remove the documents and information about the documents from my site, there are at least three Supreme Court decisions holding that a publisher who did nothing illegal to obtain confidential information, cannot be punished for disseminating it. This is so even if a government entity disclosed the information in violation of law.”

Oettinger said FCPS also wants her to name the people she shared the documents with and accused the school district of “repeatedly sending someone to our homes who scared our families and damaged property.”

Oettinger has a contentious history with the school district. She accuses FCPS of violating her family’s privacy “about a dozen times” since 2017. FCPS “has provided me personally identifiable information (PII) about over a thousand students, parents, and family members; and has provided PII to other parents about students who are not their own.” The Virginia Department of Education has found FCPS to be non-compliant, “yet the noncompliance has continued.”

Photo credit: By Famartin – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, link

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One comment

  1. Why is it necessary to disclose “confidential information” about another student’s parents? These women obviously had too much time on their hands during lockdown.