JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (KMIZ)
An appeals court has upheld a lower court decision ordering the Jefferson City School District to reinstate a fired information technology administrator.
Missouri's Western District Court of Appeals issued its opinion upholding the ruling by Cole County Circuit Judge Jon Beetem on Tuesday. Beetem in March ordered JC Schools to rehire Tammy Ferry, an instructional technology coordinator fired in July 2019 after a school board hearing.
Ferry was fired after the district accused her of putting personal student information at risk by transferring files to her computer.
Beetem also ordered the district to give Ferry back pay and pay court costs.
The district appealed the decision.
The appeals court in its opinion Tuesday upheld Beetem's ruling that Ferry did not violate the law or school policy by transferring the files to herself. The student privacy law, known as FERPA, prohibits transferring files to third parties, according to the opinion signed by Judge W. Douglas Thomson.
"Here, it is undisputed that Ferry did not transfer files to a third party that would constitute a FERPA disclosure," the opinion says. "Based on the plain language of FERPA's definition of disclosure, Ferry's transfer of files to herself via her personal Google account does not constitute a disclosure."
The opinion says the school district brought up for the first time during the appeal that its training materials include prohibitions more strict than those outlined in the federal law. However, the court wrote that board policies do not provide a definition of disclosure that differs from the federal law.
JC Schools is reviewing the opinion before making a decision on its next steps, the district said Wednesday.
Ferry sued the district in a separate case alleging sex and age discrimination in 2017. That case is ongoing, according to online court records.