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OpEdNews Op Eds    H4'ed 2/2/23

The LAUSD Superintendent Vs. Transparency

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Carl Petersen
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"We were attacked one time, not more than one time, despite what some folks out there are saying. In fact, what they are saying out there has garnered the attention of federal authorities."
- LAUSD Superintendent Alberto Carvalho

Carvalho addresses the Special Education Committee in September 2022
Carvalho addresses the Special Education Committee in September 2022
(Image by LAUSD)
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In response to an unprecedented cyber attack, the LAUSD shut down its entire computer system over the 2022 Labor Day weekend. As the public demanded details of what exactly had happened, Superintendent Alberto Carvalho told the Special Education Committee that the district was able to "identify and intercept this attack as it was happening in real-time." According to his version of events, the unusual activity was detected on "Saturday around 10:30 PM." He was insistent that there was only one attack and warned that anyone who did not tow this line could be the focus of an investigation by federal authorities.

For many who use the district's computer systems, Carvalho's version of events did not match up with their experiences. Some users reported experiencing anomalies as early as the Wednesday night before the system was forced offline. Others said they were having problems at school sites on the Thursday before the Labor Day weekend.

Since the hack included the theft of personal information, the LAUSD was eventually forced to provide a more accurate timeline in order to conform with disclosure laws. According to notices sent to victims by the district, the servers were actually accessed "between July 31, 2022, and Sept. 3, 2022." Contrary to the Superintendent's "Mission Accomplished" speech, the hackers were actually rummaging around its systems for 34 days before their activities were noticed by the District. Apparently, the LAUSD had not identified or intercepted the "attack as it was happening in real-time."

Unbelievably, Carvalho's bureaucrats are still maintaining that the original assessment was correct. In an explanation worthy of "newspeak", they say that "the cyberattack began and ended on Sept. 3, 2022," and that the previous incursions were simply "reconnaissance". This not only calls into question the competence of the district's management of its IT systems but increases the amount of time that the bad actors had to access personal information.

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Despite calls for more transparency by groups like Parents Supporting Teachers, the District would not provide the Los Angeles Times with information about the exact number of possible victims. However, it now seems likely that it involves more than the "outliers" that the Superintendent described. The fact that a Notice of Data Breach was sent out indicates that more than 500 people may have been victimized by this hack as this is the threshold that triggers a notification.

Suspicions have also been raised that Carvalho has used the hack to hide other data from the public. Over four months after the attack was discovered, the Board of Education is still using a "temporary" website. This site lacks links to data that existed before the attack. Links to charter school petitions are included, but clicking them results in dead ends.

(Image by LAUSD)   Details   DMCA

While the incursion into the LAUSD's computer systems may have been the result of a failure by his predecessor to heed previous warnings, the District had been warned to recheck its system defenses in the wake of Russia's threats of retaliation for sanctions imposed after its invasion of Ukraine. A strong leader would own up to his failures and learn from them, not cover them up.

The Superintendent made the move from Miami in a process that was shrouded in secrecy. This lack of transparency built a mistrust that has only been amplified by the uncovering of his participation in a "passing the trash" scandal, deals signed with officials in his former state, and unanswered questions about his tenure in Miami. Carvalho's continued failure to operate openly is quickly costing him the ability to lead the country's largest school district with an elected school board.

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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