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CPS Employee Leaked Private Student Info To Noble Charter Network: District

By Linze Rice | November 17, 2016 11:46am | Updated on November 17, 2016 12:20pm
 The Noble Network of Charter Schools is proposing two high schools on the Southwest Side.
The Noble Network of Charter Schools is proposing two high schools on the Southwest Side.
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DNAinfo/Adriana Cardona-Maguigad

CHICAGO — In a letter sent this week to families of some Chicago Public Schools students, the district said a CPS employee gave out confidential student information to the Noble Network of charter schools, which used the information to recruit students.

As CPS and the Chicago Teachers Union continued talks leading up to a possible strike in late September, some CPS students received postcards advertising Noble that were addressed directly to them, ABC-7  News reported. The mailers were directed toward students in sixth-eighth grades.

In September, CPS told ABC-7 it didn't believe any of its employees had leaked the information. But in a  letter parents received Wednesday from Phillip DiBartolo, the district's chief information officer, CPS admitted the privacy violation had come from within. 

Student names, addresses, grades and elementary schools were shared, "a clear violation of Board of Education policy" that was not authorized by the district, DiBartolo said.

Officials at CPS said the employee responsible for the leak was mid-level and the district was revamping its policies and procedures regarding access to student information.

"CPS is deeply troubled by any violation of students’ privacy," spokesman Michael Passman told DNAinfo Thursday, adding the district had contacted families and the Office of the Inspector General to conduct a review of the situation.

Noble officials said they initiated a review after parents complained in September about getting the mailers. They denied the timing of the mailers was tied to the potential strike.

Noble said it disciplined the employees involved, re-trained employees and removed the information from their employee databases.

"Noble routinely sends mailings to Chicago families to make them aware of their local public school options," Noble spokesman Cody Rogers said. "After conducting a thorough internal review, Noble determined that a list used for one of these mailings was improperly provided to a Noble employee by a single CPS employee, and should not have been used by any Noble employee. ... We take extraordinarily seriously the trust families place in us to safeguard student information."

CPS Board of Education President Frank Clark has a Noble charter school named after him.

In part, the CPS letter reads:

"Earlier this fall you may have received an unsolicited advertisement in the mail from the Noble Network of Charter Schools, the result of the improper actions of a CPS employee, who released some pieces of confidential student information (student name, address, grade, and current elementary school) to an employee of the Noble Network. This action was not authorized by the district, and we deeply regret this violation of your privacy.

We take the privacy of your family and our students very seriously. This action was a clear violation of Board of Education policy, which is why CPS immediately shut down this employee's access to student data systems when we learned about the breach. We also immediately contacted the Office of the Inspector General (OIG), and will take appropriate disciplinary action against the employee once the OIG's investigation is complete. 

Additionally, CPS has spoken with Noble Network of Charter Schools, which has confirmed in writing that your child's confidential information was been removed from all of the organization's computers and databases."

Kyle Hillman, a CPS parent with a daughter in fifth-grade at Pierce Elementary School in Andersonville, said she was sent a solicitation from Noble and follow-up from CPS.

Hillman said he wasn't happy about Clark's ties to the Noble network and wanted to know more about how sensitive student information left the CPS office.

"At a time when CPS parents already distrust our school leadership, this happens to confirm every fear parents have," Hillman said, adding he didn't think an apology was enough. "At best we are talking about an administration that can't even handle the simple task of safely storing sensitive data of our children. At worst we are seeing a continuation of CPS's deliberate moves to destroy neighborhood schools to the benefit of charters." 

See the full letter below.

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