A day after she was accused of breaking the law, state schools superintendent candidate Joy Hofmeister fired back at incumbent Janet Barresi on Thursday with allegations of her own.
Hofmeister accused Barresi of violating the federal privacy laws of students — including those with special needs — by releasing confidential information. She is calling for a federal investigation.
“We believed the proper authorities would pursue action earlier, but we have yet to see action, therefore we will be moving forward,” Hofmeister said in a statement.
Hofmeister accused Barresi of “multiple privacy breaches” and said they were part of the reason she resigned from the state Board of Education to run against her.
“Janet Barresi has repeatedly violated the privacy of Oklahoma schoolchildren. She has posted their private academic records and personal information on the state Department of Education website,” Hofmeister said. “There are multiple state and federal laws prohibiting this sort of behavior.”
Was privacy violated?
Hofmeister also accused Barresi of violating the privacy of special education students by identifying them and sharing their names and addresses with her re-election campaign.
Barresi campaign manager Robyn Matthews said the allegations are “yet another example of Joy Hofmeister trying to use taxpayer resources for her own campaign advancement.”
Mathews added that she wasn’t surprised Hofmeister was making “wild allegations” given that she has been identified as the subject of an inquiry by Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater.
Prater told The Oklahoman on Wednesday that he is reviewing “for potential criminal conduct” complaints against the campaign of Hofmeister. The allegation is that there was improper collusion between Hofmeister’s campaign and a dark money group supporting her.
Hofmeister, of Tulsa, is Barresi’s chief opponent in Tuesday’s Republican primary. She said emails show that Barresi had full knowledge of the privacy violations and refused to do anything about it until she was pressured by state school board members, legislators and the media.
Matthews said “the Education Department acknowledged that staff made mistakes, as will happen when 284 employees are working to implement needed education reforms, but that has been rectified and handled with transparency as Ms. Hofmeister’s own release proves.”
Was law broken?
The allegations come a day after Barresi’s campaign manager accused Hofmeister of breaking the law by sending campaign-related emails to Tulsa-area school district administrators on their work accounts.
“Our students have federal privacy rights afforded to them under (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act),” Hofmeister said. “Janet Barresi violated Oklahoma students’ privacy on multiple occasions during her tenure as state superintendent and must be held accountable.”