On August 26th, the Octorara Area School District filed a Petition for Reconsideration with the Office of Open Records. They challenged the OOR order to produce records regarding Dr. Newcom’s contract extension. Their claim was spam filters blocked & purged my original request, and the request was therefore not valid. How did that happen?
In two affidavits, sworn under penalty of law, Dr Newcome stated that the District marries the PowerSchool system with their spam filtering software. If a parent works for a company that is considered spammy, that parent is completely blocked from communicating with teachers or staff through email.
This spam trigger is by personal name only (e.g. “John Doe”). It does not matter if a parent’s communication is coming from their personal email account (yahoo mail, gmail, aol) or a business account. This means, if in the PowerSchool system, parent “John Doe” works for a company known to send unsolicited bulk messages, works for a company that could possibly send unsolicited bulk messages, or works for a company that could potentially have a website violating the District’s Acceptable Use Policy, the parent is all-together, completely black listed.
Dr Newcome stated, “the District’s spam filter stopped Mr. Alexander’s email because: (a) the text of the email included the name “Timothy Alexander”; (b) the District spam filter is programmed to cross-reference the text of incoming emails against the District’s database; (c) in the District’s database, “Timothy Alexander” is listed as employed with “Underworld Tattoo” (Attachment A); and (d) the District spam filter is directed to stop and purge emails from any source – such as individuals employed by a tattoo parlor – associated with “Adult Body Art.”
The “Attachment A” was my child’s parent information in the PowerSchool system that is suppose to aid in communication with the District, not black list parents. It is a complete misuse of personal information. So, we are to believe, because at one time I worked at a tattoo studio (one that no longer even exists) I have been block from emailing teachers and staff about my children’s progress.
This also has greater implications. If there are two parents with the name “John Doe,” and one gets blocked, they both get blocked. Why? …because the trigger is the person’s name only, without out any additional qualifiers. If Parent A works for a potentially spammy company, then Parent B gets black listed as well.
Most spam filters will use a weighted point system to determine if an email is actually spam. The filter will check the content, if an email was dated in the past, if the IP address is a known spammer, and other factors. However, what the Octorara School District does is intentionally uses student information to block actual PARENTS, by name only.
Does that make sense to you? As ludicrous as Dr Newcome’s statement is, there is no way to prove they don’t mishandle student information in this way. One could make a spam filter to block messages containing the word “hello” if they wanted. as silly as it would be.
It was because of this supposed District policy that, on October 7th, my appeal of the Petition for Reconsideration was denied. Dr Newcome’s testimony was the District uses student information within the PowerSchool system to target and black list parents from contacting teachers and other staff. The OOR determined that because of the policy, the District proved my original request was never received and the District does not need to provide any records.
However, the OOR did not answer the question of whether the records or the actions by the board should be public. It only determined that the original request was not received. I now have to determine if it is worth additional legal action to pursue.
Fact is, it was also stated that no records were even kept from the 2012 meetings in which the Board took official action. Thanks to the OOR’s timing, I have until after the election to make my decision… at least regarding the original request.
All this raises the question, “Why is the District using student information in this way?”
Are you on their black list? How would you know?
- Octorara Plans to Challenge Office of Open Records Determination (parkesburggazette.wordpress.com)
- OASD Board Denies Receiving Right-To-Know (octorarataxes.wordpress.com)
- “Insiders Are Wanted” – September 16, 2013 Regular Meeting (octorarataxes.wordpress.com)
- “Wish List” or “Wishful Thinking” for Octorara’s new website? (octorarataxes.wordpress.com)