by: Hank Martin
It is more than self-evident, that the Albemarle County Public Schools (ACPS) will commence this scholastic season on as incompetent a note as it ended its 2022-2023 term. One in which we saw specious policy decisions regarding bathrooms, brawling students, sexual assaults, and a rape in the locker room of a high school. Now, “We the People,” otherwise known as the taxpaying citizens of Albemarle County must once more stand and stare in bedazzling and perplexing disbelief, as the Hass Administration—or as it can be properly nicknamed, The “Haasian Empire”— rolls as a loose cannon, fecklessly across the deck of responsibility, displaying the quintessential definition of hubris and arrogance in its mishandling of student affairs.
Long before “We the Financers” ever heard of the ChiCom Virus, the mask initiatives, the vaccine mandates, etc., back in the day when things were “normal” upon the earth, it was anything but, within the ACPS. This current crisis of being short on bus drivers, was already symptomatic of a cascading failure that goes back more than a decade. The inability to maintain a steady consistency of drivers stems not just from an inequality of pay and benefits. Bus drivers were earning $25.00 an hour with benefits as far back as 2010 in surrounding counties, it’s only been since the plandemic, where forced Vax policies initiated an exodus of driving staff, that the county saw fit to finally modernize and adjust its wages to be competitive. As usual, too little too late, and with the foolishness of the DEI mandates being forced upon its drivers, well, many found their fecal filters full.
It was with very little surprise that I watched the CBS 19 News report (8/22/23), regarding the fashion that the transportation staff of the Haasian Empire botched its endeavors to rectify the debacle created by the bus driver shortage. That report:
Emily Smith makes the point, and it’s so clear that a blind man could see it with a stick, leaving “We the Financers” to submit the obvious inquiry: “What were you thinking?”. The individual or individuals who approved the decision and authorized the arrangements to transport Smith’s young daughter with an outside, third party contractor, WITHOUT seeking ANY permission or even notifying the Smith’s, well they stepped squarely upon a landmine.
Publicly funded schools operate under the seldom mentioned and preferably forgotten ideal of “In Loco Parentis”. “In Loco Parentis” the Latin term that means “in the place of a parent.” In the context of public schools, it refers to the responsibility and authority entrusted to teachers and school administrators to act as if they were the legal guardians of the students while they are under their care. In practical terms, it means that when students are at school or involved in school-related activities, teachers and school staff have the authority to make decisions on behalf of the students as if they were their parents. This authority allows them to ensure the students’ well-being, safety, and education. This is an easily observable and self-evident failure of the Haasian Empire, the first one.
The second failure, and the most damning, is the violation of the FERPA policy. The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, is a federal law that safeguards the privacy and confidentiality of student education records in the United States. Now, when it comes to “special needs” students, FERPA plays a crucial role in ensuring their privacy and protecting their information.
Under FERPA, schools are required to obtain consent from the parent or guardian before disclosing a student’s educational records. This means that any information related to a “special needs” student’s diagnosis, evaluations, progress reports, or individualized education plans (IEPs) must be kept confidential and can only be shared with appropriate individuals involved in the student’s education, such as teachers, counselors, or healthcare professionals. FERPA also grants ““special needs”” students the right to access their own educational records and request any necessary corrections or amendments. This empowers them to have a say in their educational journey and ensures the accuracy of their information.
By upholding the privacy and confidentiality of “special needs” students’ records, FERPA fosters an environment of trust and security. This enables students to thrive academically, emotionally, and socially, knowing that their personal information is being handled with care and respect. Well, that ship has left orbit now hasn’t it?
It was WITHOUT Emily Smith’s knowledge or consent, that the Haasian Empire violated FERPA, shared her child’s supposedly secure information with an unknown business entity that was NOT a teacher, counselor, or healthcare professional! Notice the lack of accepting responsibility for their breach of the FERPA policy? ACPS ignores the fact and are not accepting the responsibility that they are not supposed to take any action without permission from parents. Instead, what they publicly state is that “Parents were supposed to be notified before the third-party company reached out, but that did not happen.”
It seems obvious the most prescient point was missed. The parents would have been notified and aware of the third-party prior to their outreach, had ACPS followed the protocol of FERPA and advised parents of the intended solution to the transportation problem and then sought their permission to share personal, confidential information that is federally guaranteed to be secure!
It is not like FERPA is a new policy that the county is adapting to; it has been in existence since 1974, and its goals are simple but its intent inviolable-until now. FERPA guarantees that educational records, including IEPs, are kept confidential. This means that unless, and here’s that word again, consent is given, schools cannot disclose a student’s information to third parties without prior written permission from parents or eligible students. This provision ensures that students with IEPs are not stigmatized or discriminated against based on their disabilities. FERPA restricts access to student records to authorized individuals, again, such as teachers, administrators, and support staff who have a legitimate educational interest. This provision prevents unauthorized disclosure and ensures that only those directly involved in a student’s education have access to student records. By limiting disclosure, FERPA fosters an environment of trust and encourages open communication between parents, students, and educators. There is a need to protect student records, especially for students with IEPs, under FERPA law, and this I think, in light of this debacle, simply cannot be overstated. FERPA plays a vital role in safeguarding the privacy, confidentiality, and security of educational information.
It is well past time for “We the Financiers” to objectively make a close inspection of the current state of the Albemarle County Public Schools as an institution and as an investment. It matters not whether you have children or grandchildren in the school system. It matters not whether you are a homeowner or a renter, ultimately, it is your hard-earned tax dollars that are being employed by the ACPS to the tune of eighteen thousand dollars ($18K), per student. Seriously inquire of yourself, given the many issues that have transpired within the corridors of these school facilities, and those that continue to transpire, can you honestly stand behind an institution that each year demands more of your money, now claims a need to build more facilities, when it cannot (1) provide for the safety of its students while on campus (2) follow simple protocols as prescribed in FERPA and (3) not even be able to competently provide transportation to the facilities it already has in its possession?
There is currently an on-line petition requesting that Emperor Haas not have his contract renewed in June of 2025. While understandable in sentiment, it ultimately provides little in solving the problem. What is required is to have people on the School Board who are actually interested in the physical, mental, and educational wellbeing of all students, rather than simply endeavoring to see a school board as a means to a greater end—that being the making of a political resume. One that can be used as the first rung upon the ladder of power.
I am a product of the Albemarle County Public School system, and as difficult as it was to be a student serving out my sentence of “Free Education” there, I found it even more excruciating to have been a parent there. The one thing that I never could understand about my fellow parents, is the inability to see themselves as the employers of the school system, rather than its powerless serfs. Whereas too many parents viewed the faculty, staff, and administrators as some form of educational god(s) on marble platforms, to be obeyed and worshipped in matters of their children, I saw a group of foul-reeking, ill-faced cullions who were as swaggering, overbearing, tin-plated dictators with delusions of godhood, and who obtain their living expenses from me, and all of the rest of “We the Financers.”
It was so delightfully refreshing to finally see the Freudian slip and the truth exposed about how parents and “We the Financers” are truly thought of, and it came from the mouth of one of the Commonwealth of Virginia’s own. That September 2021 night on the debate stage, when Terry McAuliffe said, “I’m not going to let parents come into schools and actually take books out and make their own decisions,” and then going even further, added “I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach.” I was thrilled to finally have caught on tape, in a public forum, that which has been known but never spoken outright. Within that attitude lies the problem, and it’s the root of the dark heart of the Haasian Empire. Just as the School Board had no response to the issue of transportation when the concerned parents and some bus drivers addressed it in the open forum, so too are parents ignored with their concerns over CRT, transgender radicalism, and inappropriate sexual materials in student curriculums.
Our current school ideology does not recognize parental sovereignty, and McAuliffe made that abundantly clear. Parents know the most about their children, care the most about their children, and have primary responsibility for raising their children. They should not, and now it is most obvious, CANNOT simply trust — unchecked — educators, administrators, and experts to make important decisions about what is taught to their kids and how their schools are run.
In its original form, the beauty of our once decentralized education system was that it provided parents broad access to influence how their children are taught, whether through the PTA or elected school boards. Just as our Constitution has been perverted, so have our local schools and those that operate them. ACPS Superintendent Matt Haas is evidently drinking from the same tainted well of group think, and evidently isn’t enamored with the mechanisms of democratic accountability and grassroots input.
Like all progressives, Haas has a highly inflated view of the competency and authority of government bureaucrats, and well, alas, here we are. Utterly failing in so many areas, not the least of which is getting all the students to the school house and protecting their privacy rights when they do.