JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (KMIZ)
A judge ruled this week that the Jefferson City School District illegally fired an administrator who transferred work files to her personal computer.
Cole County Circuit Judge Jon Beetem said in a ruling signed Tuesday that JC Schools should not have fired instructional technology coordinator Tammy Ferry last July.
"Seeing it in writing was just over-the-top exciting for me," said Ferry. "In all of this, the most important thing is that my name is cleared, because my professional reputation is very important to me."
In his ruling, Beetem wrote that the student information was not disclosed to any third party and thus the transfer was not a violation of laws protecting student privacy. Beetem also wrote that the district didn't prove Ferry violated school board policy that bars employees from taking actions that make student data vulnerable to hacking.
"... No evidence was adduced at the hearing to establish that the student data located in Tammy Ferry's personal account was any less secure than the same student data located in the District Google account," Beetem wrote.
Beetem ordered the district to reinstate Ferry to her position as instructional technology coordinator and give her back pay. The district must also pay court expenses.
"I still have a lot to contribute professionally," said Ferry. "I still have a job to do and I would love to be able to do it again."
"Protecting the privacy and security of the data entrusted to us is among the highest of priorities for the Jefferson City School District," JC School spokeswoman Ryan Burns said. "We respectfully disagree with the Court’s decision, and we will be pursuing next steps in the legal process as we believe it is in the best interest of our staff and students to do so."
Shortly after news of the judge's decision broke, the JC Schools board called a special meeting to take place Friday. The board will meet behind closed doors to discuss topics related to "legal actions, individually identifiable personnel records and records which are protected from disclosure by law."
"This burden was very heavy," said Ferry. "To be fired and told that I had violated student confidentiality. I haven't been able to get another job. My life's just been on hold and now, I feel like everything can move forward."
Ferry also filed a discrimination lawsuit against the district in 2017. That case is ongoing.
Attorneys for Ferry have argued that her firing was a retaliatory move for her filing the 2017 lawsuit.
"I was terminated unlawfully and I expect the district will appeal and that's fine," said Ferry. "I don't feel threatened by that. I don't feel worried about that."
Ferry said a jury trial in the civil case is scheduled for Sept. 8, although, online court records do not list a hearing date as of the publication of this article.