Tuesday, June 4, 2019

US Department of Education finds Eva Moskowitz and Success Academy repeatedly violated a child’s privacy according to FERPA


The Daily News covered this story and reported that Eva Moskowitz plans to appeal the US Department of Education's decision.  The story was also reported in Education Week and PoliticoWBAI evening news interviewed me about this as well; start at 9 min. 30 seconds in.

For immediate release: June 4, 2019
For more information contact Leonie Haimson, leoniehaimson@gmail.com; 917-435-9329.


US Department of Education finds Eva Moskowitz and Success Academy repeatedly violated a child’s privacy according to FERPA

On Monday, June 2, 2019, Fatima Geidi finally received a response to a FERPA complaint she filed more than three and half years ago with the US Department of Education. The Privacy Office of the Department of Education found that her FERPA complaint against Eva Moskowitz and Success Academy charter schools was justified and that they had indeed repeatedly violated her son’s privacy rights.  The official findings letter to Ms. Moskowitz, dated May 31, 2019, is here.

On October 31, 2015, Ms. Geidi filed a complaint detailing how Eva Moskowitz, CEO of Success Academy charter schools, had revealed details of her son’s disciplinary records to the media and on her website.  Ms. Moskowitz made these disclosures in order to retaliate against Ms. Geidi and her son after they had appeared on the PBS News Hour to report how he had been repeatedly suspended at one of her schools.  Her original FERPA complaint is posted here.

Yet the US Department of Education waited more than two years to even launch an investigation into her complaint.  In the meantime, Ms. Moskowitz included many of the same exaggerated charges against Ms. Geidi’s son on several pages of her memoir, The Education of Eva Moskowitz, that was published in September 2017.   When Ms. Geidi noticed these passages in a bookstore, she filed a second FERPA complaint on December 20, 2017.

Last week, the US Department of Education refused to accept the weak rationalizations offered by the Success Academy legal staff about these disclosures and found that in both cases, they were flagrant violations of FERPA.

Yet in order to address these violations, Frank Miller, Deputy Director of the Student Privacy Policy Office, wrote that Success Academy must merely ensure that  “school officials have or will receive training on the requirements of FERPA as they relate to the issues in this complaint.”  He refrained from imposing any penalties or demanding that the offending passages be deleted from Eva Moskowitz’ book – a book  that is still for sale on Amazon and in bookstores all across the United States.

As Fatima Geidi said, “While I am glad that the US Department of Education agreed that Ms. Moskowitz and Success Academy repeatedly violated my child’s privacy by disclosing trumped-up details of his education records to the media, on the Success website and in her book, I am furious that they failed to fine her, or at the very least, demand that she take the offending passages out of her book. Because the Department of Education waited over two years to respond to my initial FERPA complaint,  Eva Moskowitz illegally put the same information (false by the way) about my child in a book where it may remain forever.  This is unacceptable, and I demand that the illegal passages from the book be deleted.”

Leonie Haimson, co-chair of the Parent Coalition for Student Privacy, said, “Ms. Moskowitz and Success Academy have repeatedly violated FERPA in order to retaliate against parents who dare reveal how she abuses children and pushes them out of her charter schools.  These illegal disclosures happened again just last month, in the case of Lisa Vasquez and her daughter, as reported in a Chalkbeat article.  On May 9, 2019, Ms. Vasquez filed a FERPA complaint with the US Department of Education and the NY State Education Chief Privacy Officer.   Her FERPA complaint is posted on our blog, where we point to other privacy violations by Success charter schools. Simply asking for Success staff to receive privacy training  will likely prove no real deterrence to Eva Moskowitz.  Instead she and her staff will likely continue to flagrantly violate their students’ privacy with impunity in the future.” 

The  US Department of Education has provided more than $37 million in discretionary grants to Success Academy since 2010, including nearly $10 million awarded in April 2019.  Its officials should be required to explain why they chose not to withhold any federal funds from her schools, and worse, will allow the offending passages in Ms. Moskowitz’ book to remain in perpetuity. The unacceptable delay of more than three and a half years in responding to Ms. Geidi’s initial complaint and the lack of an meaningful response by the Department provides further evidence as to why parents should be able to sue for damages under FERPA when their children’s right to privacy has been violated.

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