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Vol. 17-001, May 2, 2017

(OAH Case No. 2016060112 (2017).)

The Gist
​● Willful disclosure of confidential student information for improper purposes may warrant dismissal
​● Falsification of school district forms for personal advantage may also support dismissal

​The Details
In this case, a psychologist shared confidential student information with parents who were not the parents of the children whose records were disclosed.  Those disclosures included, among other things, student information contained in district documents and details regarding requests for services.  The psychologist also disclosed confidential information regarding an on-going investigation, litigation, and terms of confidential settlement agreements.

The psychologist shared this information via text messages, in many of which she acknowledged the wrongfulness of her conduct.  For example, her text messages stated, among other things, “for ur eyes only” and “mums the word.”  The CPC characterized the psychologist’s communications as “gossip.”

The psychologist also filed a proof of residency form falsely asserting that her children lived within the attendance boundaries of the school to which she was assigned.  The district sought to dismiss the psychologist for unprofessional conduct, dishonesty, and persistent failure or refusal to comply with district rules and regulations.

The CPC unanimously upheld the psychologist’s dismissal by concluding that the psychologist’s conduct constituted dishonesty and a persistent failure or refusal to comply with district rules and regulations.

Practical Pointers
Clients often struggle with the appropriate level of discipline to administer to in response to employee misconduct.  This case seems to support a finding that a certificated staff member who knowingly and willfully violates the law by improperly disclosing confidential student may be dismissed.  It should be noted, however, that the CPC found the psychologist’s conduct to be highly blameworthy given the fact the she knowingly and wrongfully distributed the student information, the psychologist took no responsibility for her actions, and her testimony was not “persuasive or credible.”

Please note, nothing contained in the CPC Blog is intended to be legal advice.  Please feel free to contact any of our offices for additional information and/or consult legal counsel regarding any particular matters.