Whistleblower to Sue Oregon Department of Education

Photo credit: Nick Youngson (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Oregon Public Broadcasting reports that the former chief information officer for the Oregon Department of Education (ODE) is suing claiming ODE suspended and moved to terminate her because of her whistleblowing about the department’s data collection efforts and requests for access that violated federal privacy laws.

Rob Manning for OPB writes:

Former CIO Susie Strangfield resigned last May after being suspended for months while state officials investigated her. OPB previously reported that the state’s investigation included unusual accusations — for example, that Strangfield kept her earbuds in when she walked with coworkers and occasionally raised her voice with colleagues.

Strangfield suspected her suspension and subsequent moves to have her terminated were not about the conduct and project management questions that her attorneys called “frivolous.” Instead, she believed that top state officials forced her out because she raised privacy and security concerns about a massive database the state is building with records on millions of Oregonians, many of them children.

Strangfield’s attorneys filed a tort claim notice, essentially a warning that she intends to sue, alleging Strangfield was discriminated and retaliated against, in part for blowing the whistle on the database’s shortcomings.

Manning reported back in August about her complaint about Oregon’s statewide longitudinal database system (SLDS) and she was not the only person to express concern:

Officials in school districts across Oregon said they share Strangfield’s concerns about protections for student privacy and security, though they declined to speak on the record to preserve relations with ODE and the Chief Education Office. Multiple analyses from the U.S. Department of Education also laid out security concerns with how Oregon education officials handle data.

Worries came from others at ODE, too.

“One thing I want to be clear about — it wasn’t just Susie who had concerns,” said Amy McLaughlin, the supervisor of ODE’s information security team until she left in 2016. “I had concerns; my team had concerns about making sure that we were in compliance with FERPA.”
FERPA is the federal law that prohibits education institutions from sharing data on individual students, without documented research or audit plans.

Oregon parents and lawmakers should be concerned. 

One thought on “Whistleblower to Sue Oregon Department of Education

  1. Strangfield isn’t the first person pushed out by the ODE for questioning overzealous data collection. Now the ODE wants to emulate Colorado in joining student behavior data to the Department of Corrections! What happened to expunging juvenile records? What happened to keeping all parents informed?

    Meanwhile, states and feds already want to apply predictive algorithms to much government data, even though they’re wrong 35% of the time. What a way to fill the school-to-prison pipeline!

Comments are closed.