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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 2/28/23

It Is Time For The Superintendent To Go

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"It's deeply disturbing that an organization that you've entrusted with such sensitive information is either significantly delaying -- or even hiding -- the fact that individuals had very sensitive information exposed."
"- Doug Levin, K12 Security Information eXchange

From the moment the LAUSD discovered its systems had been hacked, it has refused to provide needed information to those who stood the most to lose from the data breach. Users of the system were not even told what was happening and had to rely on social media to find out that they were not the only ones who were suddenly locked out. Superintendent Alberto Carvalho not only lied about the timeline of the attack but threatened anyone who publicly questioned these fictional details, saying they would be investigated by the "federal authorities."

An investigation by "The 74" finds that the Superintendent not only lied about the timeline of the attack but also the type of information that was released. While Carvalho said in October that reports "that student psychiatric evaluation records had been published online" were "absolutely incorrect", "The 74" reports that the files posted online by Russian hackers were "among the most sensitive records that schools keep about children with disabilities." This could "include details about a family's immigration status, sexual misconduct allegations, unfounded child abuse reports, or that a student has 'been hitting other children or adults in a school environment.'" According to "The 74," materials released to the dark web included "detailed and highly sensitive mental health records of hundreds -- and likely thousands -- of former Los Angeles students", including "psychological evaluations".

Information found on the Dark Web by
Information found on the Dark Web by 'The 74'
(Image by LAUSD)
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After the truth about the attack's timeline was revealed the District relied on Newspeak to explain away the discrepancy by claiming that the earlier incursions into its systems were simply exploratory and not actual attacks. A district spokesperson used the same tactics for the latest revelation and claiming that Carvalho's statements in October "were based on the information that had been developed at that time". It is important to note that the report Carvalho denied was based on information provided by "a confidential law enforcement source."

After "The 74's" report was released to the public, the LAUSD was forced to admit that 2,000 student assessments had been exposed. This included 60 students currently enrolled in the district.

Instead of holding the Superintendent accountable for his lack of transparency, the Board of Education seems intent on being his willing accomplice. First, they declared that "Emergency Conditions Exist" and authorized "certain contracts without advertising or inviting bids," giving Carvalho a blank check to fix the problem. Then Board President Jackie Goldberg excused the Superintendent's dishonesty about the timeline of the attack, claiming that "making things public at a time earlier than he did would have endangered all of the efforts of the federal government, the state government, FBI, local police in trying to stop this." This ignores the fact that there is a distinct difference between withholding information and lying, especially threatening those who dispute the lies. As I noted in my comments to the Board in September: the public should never be deceived, especially when they are affected.

While the computer hack is the most notable of the Superintendent's failures, it is not the only example of his inability to provide collaborative leadership for the country's second-largest school district. During his year in office he has ignored the District's students with Special Education needs as he implemented a long-term plan. He also betrayed the LGBTQ+ and minority communities by negotiating a contract with the Florida Department of Education as it implemented a "Don't Say Gay" Policy and placed bans on the teaching of African American history. His reported refusal to bargain in good faith with the district's unions has resulted in a strike vote by SEIU 99 and increasing animosity from the teachers.

Carvalho from the LAUSD's website
Carvalho from the LAUSD's website
(Image by LAUSD)
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The School Board created this mess by hiring the Superintendent behind closed doors preempting any chance for proper vetting of their new hire. Without an open process, there was no public understanding of why Carvalho broke his agreement to become New York City's Superintendent in a very unprofessional manner. It is also unknown if the Board investigated the Superintendent's relationship with a reporter that allegedly included promises to help each other's careers. There was also no discussion of Carvalo's involvement in the Miami "Passing The Trash" scandal where teachers were transferred instead of prosecuted after allegedly grooming students for sexual relationships.

As LAUSD's students try to recover from the effects of the COVID crisis, they need leadership that focuses on their needs without constant distractions from a Superintendent that refuses to be transparent with the public that he is supposed to serve. It is time for the Board to terminate Carvalho's contract and find a Superintendent who understands that he needs to work with the public to find solutions, not hide from their feedback.

Carl Petersen is a parent advocate for students with special education needs and public education. He was elected to the Northridge East Neighborhood Council and is the Education Chair. As a Green Party candidate in LAUSD's District 2 School Board race, he was endorsed by Network for Public Education (NPE) Action. Dr. Diane Ravitch has called him "a valiant fighter for public schools in Los Angeles." For links to his blogs, please visit www.ChangeTheLAUSD.com. Opinions are his own.

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Carl Petersen is a parent, an advocate for students with special education needs, an elected member of the Northridge East Neighborhood Council, a member of the LAUSD's CAC, and was a Green Party candidate in LAUSD's District 2 School Board race. During the campaign, the Network for Public Education (NPE) Action endorsed him, and Dr. Diane Ravitch called him a " (more...)

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