Home News Arizona Education Department Shares Improperly Redacted Document

Arizona Education Department Shares Improperly Redacted Document

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Phoenix

A spreadsheet was released naming every parent with an Empowerment Scholarship Account in Arizona, allegedly violating federal student privacy laws, education officials said.

The state Department of Education released the spreadsheet documenting account balances, parents’ names, email addresses, the grade level of their student and if and what type of disability the student has, Arizona Capitol Times reported Monday.

The document should have been redacted because giving out that information would violate the Family Educational Rights of Privacy Act, department spokesman Richie Taylor said.

A sister publication of the Capitol Times, The Yellow Sheet Report, also obtained the spreadsheet through a public records request.

It appears the department blackened the background in columns containing the personal information of about 7,000 parents with scholarship accounts, but didn’t rescan the document to ensure the words didn’t show through, the publication reported.

Save our Schools Arizona, a group that opposes the program, received the same improperly redacted document, spokeswoman Dawn Penich-Thacker said.

“Here’s an organization that actively campaigns against the ESA program and has repeatedly attempted to undermine the program,” Education Choice policy advisor Jason Bedrick said about Save our Schools. “Now, every single person who’s participating in the program, their names and information has been revealed to the special interest group that opposes the use of the program.”

The spreadsheet did not identify the names of any children who use the scholarship program, officials said.

“One could imagine how betrayed these vulnerable families must feel, knowing that SOS has their information,” said Steve Smith, the state director for the American Federation for Children, a school-choice group.

According to the Empowerment Scholarship Account website, the program provides assistance to students with a disability, students of parents who are legally blind, deaf or hard of hearing, students within a Native American reservation and more.

“Everyone deserves their right to privacy, but especially children … we’re certainly not going to delve into or do anything with the info,” Penich-Thacker said.

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