The state Education Department is investigating how a startup statewide charter school obtained the home addresses of students across the state.
Thousands of Oklahoma students received recruitment fliers in the mail from the Oklahoma Information and Technology School, a new virtual charter school. Parents are furious about the school’s access to children’s names and home addresses.
“We have received alarming complaints,” State Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister said in a written statement. “As a result of these troubling accounts, a state investigation has begun. That investigation will continue 24/7 until we have answers.”
The school, which opens this fall, sent the mailers to public fifth and sixth grade students attending schools across the state. The virtual school is part of Dove Schools, a charter school with seven sites in Oklahoma City and Tulsa.
The school obtained the addresses through a portion of the state Education Department’s website for school officials, said attorney Drew Edmondson, who is representing the school in its charter authorization.
“It probably would have been a better practice to address the letters ‘to the parents of and then the student’s name’,” said Edmondson, adding that the school didn’t have access to the names of the parents.
It was a one-time thing, he said, to notify parents of the schooling option.
The recruitment fliers, which included an application to the school, were addressed to the students by name.
“This is a violation of privacy and safety. The home address of our minor children, along with their names, should never be shared by the state Department with anyone other than the school districts in which they are enrolled,” said Erika Wright, a Noble Public Schools board member who leads an advocacy group for four-day schools. Parents brought the fliers to her attention Friday.
She said marketing to students in other districts was “unconscionable.”
Another statewide virtual school, Epic Charter Schools, came under fire last summer for sending mailers and emails to certified teachers across the state. Epic obtained those addresses through an open records request.