The battle over privacy rights versus those of free speech continues between Fairfax County Public Schools and the local-area online forum “Fairfax Underground” after Fairfax High School students’ grades and other personal information was posted on the online site.
On Dec. 18, someone with the username "Fairfax Leaks" posted a .PDF of a 2,166-page document on the forum’s website, exposing Fairfax High School Report Cards from the 2011-2012 school year for every student at the school.
The post contained student names, student identification numbers, final exam grades, 4th quarter grades, and final grades for the 2011-12 school year, grouped by course.
Fairfax Underground does not require its users to post their real names when using the site.
On Dec. 21, FCPS Superintendent Jack Dale sent a letter to parents of the school’s students.
“I am writing to update you regarding the anonymous posting made to the online forum Fairfax Underground on December 18 that contained confidential information of students enrolled at Fairfax High School in June 2012,” he wrote. “Today, the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia granted our request for a Temporary Restraining Order/Preliminary Injunction requiring that the data be removed from the Fairfax Underground website. A copy of the Order was provided to the owner of the Fairfax Underground website. He has notified us that the data will be removed from the website by no later than 5 p.m. today.”
On the website the same day, Fairfax Underground founder and administrator Cary Wiedemann posted his reply to the court order.
“As the order was issued without notice I was not provided any chance to respond to the school board's petition. I have a very limited time to file a Motion to Dissolve, and am currently exploring the merits of doing so, but as the injunction expires on January 4th, 2013, I may well abide by this temporary order and focus my efforts on ensuring the injunction doesn't become permanent,” he wrote.
In an earlier post on the site, Wiedemann expounded on the merits of his forum:
“Fairfax Underground has a rich history of free speech and as such the standard operating procedures are to never delete any legitimate content from the forums, regardless of how mundane or childish, so long as the claims made therein are true, and it doesn't violate one of the extremely simple rules which are: No spam, no complete garbage, no personal attacks, and no impersonation,” he wrote.
At least for now, the 2,166-page document is no longer accessible on the Fairfax Underground forum.
Wiedemann said he is preserving the document and the original records as he files a motion to dissolve the federal court order, and attempts to keep the injunction from becoming permanent.