Katy ISD apologizes for phone number goof

November 12, 2010 5:07:39 PM PST
Eyewitness News has been asking questions for a couple of weeks, and now we're finally getting some answers. The Katy Independent School District is now admitting it made a mistake in releasing parents' phone numbers to a political action committee. The political action committee used the parent's phone numbers to send automated calls, urging support of a bond referendum on the November ballot. The Katy ISD superintendent didn't have time to talk to us Friday about his apology to district parents. Apparently his schedule wouldn't allow for it. But we are hearing from some of those parents who think that apology was hollow and insincere, coming more than a week after voters passed a $460 million bond to improve the district.

Dianna Desjardins was one of the Katy parents who received the now infamous automated calls pushing the Katy bond. She got the call at home, on her cell, and at her husband's office.

Desjardins said, "I don't give my cell phone out to be used as a solicitation. And my husband certainly; his office is to be called if one of my kids gets hurt."

With one week to go before the bond vote, that call went out to numbers obtained by a political action committee, which it admits it got at least some of those numbers from school board member Joe Adams. He requested them through an open records law months earlier.

"I thought that was ridiculous because as far as I understood the board was not supposed to be pushing this," said Desjardins.

But in a letter Thursday, the superintendent writes that "we sincerely believed that the list created was in accordance with the Texas Public Information Act and the Federal Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) as no information identifying a student or parent was released," that "the phone numbers that were associated with students whose parents chose a privacy code of 'O' or 'N' should not have been released" and that "this was an unintended mistake on our part and we sincerely apologize for this lapse."

It's an apology that Dianna Desjardins and others don't buy.

She said, "They apologized because they got in trouble. Other than that I don't think that they particularly care."

"I don't think it was sincere," said Katy ISD parent Darcy Kahrhoff. "I think it's to cover some tracks."

Katy taxpayer Bill Proctor said, "I really thought that was a 'we really want to cover this whole thing up.'"

The district did receive a number of complaints and requests for information about the release of those numbers and why it gave them to a board member without seeking legal advice first.

Steve Stanford with Katy ISD denied that the reason the list was made available so quickly and without the foresight to filter those numbers was because the request was made from a sitting board member.

"Absolutely not," he said. "First of all we have 10 days to respond to a request."

It took just four business days for the district to comply with Adam's request to release thousands of phone numbers and organize them. It took the same staff 10 business days to produce a copy of Adam's request to a taxpayer. And note that on that copy all of the board member's information, including his phone number, is redacted and unreadable.

Through the district we also requested an interview with board member Adams to ask him about his role in this. We did not get a reply to that request.


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