Oral arguments have been scheduled Sept. 14 for the Jefferson City School District’s appeal to the Supreme Court on a judge’s ruling to reinstate a fired employee.
Tammy Ferry, a former instructional technology coordinator for JC Schools, was fired in July 2019 after allegations she had put student information at risk when she transferred files to her personal Google account. The board fired Ferry on the grounds she had violated the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act policy.
Cole County Circuit Judge Jon Beetem ruled in March 2020 the district had illegally fired Ferry, saying there was no evidence a disclosure of information had been made to a third party.
Beetem ordered the district to restore Ferry’s employment, pay her back from between her discharge and reinstatement and pay attorney’s fees.
JC Schools filed a notice of appeal on Beetem’s ruling in March 2020, arguing Ferry had violated FERPA and board policy by transferring files to her personal Google account.
Missouri’s Western District Court of Appeals upheld the initial judgment reversing the Board of Education’s decision to fire Ferry. Judge Douglas Thomson agreed the district had illegally fired Ferry because there is no evidence she violated FERPA or disclosed student information to a third party.
In January, the district filed a request to the Missouri Court of Appeals to transfer the appeal to the Missouri Supreme Court. The Court of Appeals denied the request.
The district then filed a request to the Missouri Supreme Court to accept transfer of the case and prevent Ferry from returning to work. The Supreme Court accepted the request.
The case will be heard before the Missouri Supreme Court on Sept. 14, and the court will decide whether the Board of Education’s decision to fire Ferry was lawful.
In a statement sent to the News Tribune in April after the Supreme Court accepted transfer of the case, JC Schools Communications Director Ryan Burns said the district is “pleased the Missouri Supreme Court has decided to examine the issue.”
“Our ongoing appeal reflects the district’s commitment to protecting our students and their confidential student records,” Burns said. “We continue to believe that pursuing this appeal is in the best interest of our staff, students and their families.”
Moen argues Ferry did not violate FERPA because she did not disclose information to a third party.
“It looks to me like the reasons that the board requested the Supreme Court take this case are simply not true,” Moen said to the News Tribune in April. “There is no case out there anywhere in the country that I can find — or the other side could find, apparently — that contradicts the holding in the Western District case.”
Moen said he’s “fearful” the Supreme Court has looked at the case and plans to change it.
“If they didn’t want to change it, they wouldn’t have taken it,” he said. “That’s the sort of assumption that I’m operating off of.”
However, he is optimistic Ferry will win the case.
“I think we’re going to be successful because it really does look to me like the Supreme Court was sort of fooled by the board into taking this transfer,” Moen said.
Ferry also filed a discrimination lawsuit against the district in April 2017, alleging retaliation, sex discrimination and a hostile work environment. A trial in that case is scheduled Nov. 15-24.
Originally Appeared Here