A Chartered Data Breach

“At Granada Hills Charter High School, we are always looking to give our parents tools to advance their children’s education. That is why we are proud to partner with the California Charter Schools Association. CCSA is here to educate, engage, and empower parents of charter school students to stay informed on issues that affect their school and all charter schools in California. To help get that relationship started, we will be sharing our school directory with CCSA, so you can hear directly from them.”

-Granada Hills Charter High School (GHCHS)

The California Charter Schools Association (CCSA) likes to argue that “charters [sic] schools are public schools." While it is true that these schools do receive public tax dollars, there is little else that qualifies them as a public entity. By their own accord they are “free from most rules and regulations governing conventional public schools,” even when that “red tape” was designed to protect students. While their website promises that “if a charter school cannot perform up to the established standards, it will be closed,” the LAUSD, Los Angeles County Office of Education and the office of California State Superintendent of Public Instruction have all displayed an unwillingness to hold these schools accountable to the laws governing public schools. Worst of all, charters have not proven to be any more successful at providing children with the education that they need. Despite their ability to cherry pick the easiest to educate students, recently released test scores showed that independent charters within the LAUSD were “below the state average” and “almost even with [the District’s] traditional [schools] and affiliated charters.”

With no one looking over their shoulders, charter schools have found ways to take advantage of the students that they are supposed to serve. While public schools have a legal mandate to provide access to educational opportunities without cost, GHCHS broke the law by charging students for caps, gowns and extra tickets for last year’s graduation ceremony. They have begun this year by forcing students to sign a consent form giving the school ownership of any files that they save to their school issued Google account. On August 28, they sent an email to parents informing them that their students’ data was scheduled to be released to the CCSA, the lobbying arm of the charter industry. If you are a student of GHCHS, you do not have to worry about your personal data being hacked, the school will freely release private information to groups “that engage in political advocacy, lobbying, or information dissemination related to California charter schools.”

Actual public schools are strictly prohibited from participating in the political process in this way. The LAUSD’s ethics site specifies that “no school district funds, services, supplies, or equipment shall be used for the purpose of urging the support of defeat of any ballot measure or candidate.” The prohibition on the placement of “campaign materials on bulletin boards, web pages, or other LAUSD premises” is particularly relevant to GHCHS as they operate on a campus owned by the LAUSD. These rules are justifiably in place to prevent the government from using funds to influence an election. While the GHCHS’ board is not democratically elected or an arm of the government, it relies on government funds to operate. These funds should be used for educating students, not political purposes.

It is important for affected parents who did not receive the notification from the school to know that by law they can exclude their children from this data release by sending their student’s name, ID, their name and phone number to [email protected]. On September 1, Alex Gomez of the LAUSD’s Charter Division was made aware of the situation and asked to provide an action plan for preventing the release of private student data, but he has not yet responded. Anyone with concerns can contact him directly at [email protected]. If the past is any indication, he will wait until after the data is released to take action.

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