Wednesday, July 31, 2019

How Did MCPS School Buses Get Cameras Mounted on Outside? #NoRFP #NoBid

Below are screen shots from the July 7, 2016, Montgomery County Council Memorandum on School Bus Safety Cameras.  These bullet points explain how MCPS and Montgomery County Police selected Force Multiplier Solutions (FXS) to equip MCPS school buses with stop arm cameras.

The company was selected based on a referral from a colleague, meetings with MCPS and the Police Department, and finally a trip by MCPS and Police Department staff to Dallas, Texas to meet with Rick Sorrells, the Dallas School Superintendent. 

In April of 2018, Rick Sorrrells, the man that MCPS and the Police representatives met with in 2015, plead guilty to accepting $3 million in bribe and kickback payments to secure contracts with Force Multiplier Solutions (FXS).  Force Multiplier Solutions ceased to operate as a business after the FBI made numerous arrests related to bribes and kickbacks.

The Force Multiplier Solutions cameras are still in use on MCPS school buses.  The employees of the company simply changed the name and continued to collect the citation revenue out of the same Virginia office. Citation revenue is funneled through a website based out of a house in Louisiana

MCPS Superintendent Jack R. Smith did not inform the Montgomery County Board of Education that Force Multiplier Solutions had been shut down.

The screen shots below explain how MCPS cameras came to use this bus camera scheme and why the cameras were installed without a Request For Proposal (RFP) or bids from competitors.

Reopened Woodward High School Might Not Have Athletic Stadium

High school in Rockville would be first in MCPS without sports complex

Story by Caitlynn Peetz in Bethesda Beat. Full story here.

MCPS staff shared early plans for construction at Monday’s Board of Education meeting, including plans for flexible classroom space that could double as gathering and performing arts areas, but much of the discussion was the future of athletics at the school.

The property’s uneven topography presents unique challenges, MCPS staff said. Although the school’s total property includes about 27 acres, the total “usable acreage” is about 16 acres.

If MCPS were to include a traditional athletic stadium at Woodward, along with baseball and softball fields, the school would lose all of its available parking spaces and be forced to build a parking garage, estimated to cost $50 million.

.@mcps admin. Jonathan Brice becomes interim superintendent of Rhode Island school district

ABC6 - Providence, RI and New Bedford, MA News, Weather

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

PCMC Exclusive: MCPS document reveals that numerous schools are at risk of poor emergency responder radio coverage

An internal Radio Coverage Compliance report recently obtained from MCPS reveals that most MCPS high schools have not been subjected to testing for emergency responder radio coverage, leaving responders at high risk during emergencies.

Schools that have not been tested and do not have a "bi-directional" amplifier (signal booster) to ensure adequate signal coverage include Quince Orchard, Seneca Valley, Thomas Wootton, Walt Whitman and Winston Churchill.  In all, at least 16 high schools have not been tested for adequate signal coverage. One high school, Seneca Valley, is currently being tested for coverage at the request of the fire marshal.

Of the nine schools that were tested for adequate signal coverage, five needed bi-directional amplifiers before occupancy permits were issued.

In addition to the MCPS high schools listed in the report below, there are over 150 middle and elementary schools for which the emergency responder signal coverage is unknown to PCMC.

The current fire code requires that all buildings constructed since 2005 be tested for adequate emergency responder radio signal coverage before they are occupied. In addition, the fire code requires that boosters be added to every building (no matter how old) that the fire marshall determines has inadequate signal coverage. The Montgomery County public safety division has a policy of testing all commercial buildings over three floors or over 25,000 sq. ft. per floor for adequate coverage, including those constructed prior to 2005.  However, the county's public safety division has not applied that policy to MCPS schools.

Monday, July 29, 2019

TODAY: Board of Education Discussing Damascus HS Criminal Proceedings in Closed Session$file/190729%20Resolution%20for%20Todays%20Closed%20Session.pdf

"A sense of urgency is called for because 2,010 students dropped out of MCPS in the past 2.5 years, the number of students in a medium-sized high school." That's a lot of dropping out!

  • From 2017 to the present, approximately 544 Grade 9 students, 696 Grade 10 students, 390 Grade 11 students, and 380 Grade 12 students dropped out of school in MCPS
  • MCPS data reveal that in the 2015‒2016 school year, 28,144 of our 152,439 students were chronically absent; 18.5 percent of the total number of students, and those numbers are rising as our enrollment increases; the 18.5 percent is greater than the national average of 10 to 15 percent. 
  • [Parents were excluded from Superintendent Jack Smith's committee.]
  •  READING is another major concern with thousands of students reading below grade level, some so low they are embarrassed because they cannot do the academic work, and therefore,they drop out. Thirty-one percent of this year’s Grade 9 students and 28 percent of Grade 6 students read below grade level (MCPS data).
  • Insufficient attention to equity [This from the public school system that charges students illegal class fees!] seen in the high number of dropouts among students who receive Free and Reduced-Price Meals System (FARMS) services (40 percent of total MCPS dropouts) and the disproportionate numbers of Black or African American 
Full text of Superintendent Jack R. Smith's memo to the Board of Education:

Saturday, July 27, 2019

@mcps Admin. Says: "The lack of compliance to county and state policy is so widespread that it was an unacceptable way to do business."

...In 1997, Montgomery County Public Schools hired Jules as a special education teacher. Over the years she rose the ranks to the administration level.
Arora explained that Jules' job at Damascus High School was negatively impacted by the October 31, JV football team locker room sexual assaults. The case rocked the tight knit community and quickly made national headlines due, in large part, to the sheer brutality and alleged negligence by school leaders.
"Ms. Jules’ department was being questioned pretty heavily and pretty routinely," Arora noted. "She was being asked to provide statements on a regular basis, answer to parents, things of that nature."
The workdays were long and the worknights consisted of drinking copious amounts of alcohol to cope with persistent police investigators and upset parents...
..."I never witnessed and experienced a more challenging and stressful work assignment. The lack of compliance to county and state policy is so widespread that it was an unacceptable way to do business...
...Despite the two, recent DWI convictions, Jules has managed to keep her administrative job with MCPS...

..."If on my probation you pick up another drunk driving offense and I hear about it, short of an extraordinary reason, I will give you all of the backup time. And that is to hopefully help deter you from picking up another drunk driving offense," the judge said during the December 2017 sentencing hearing.

Jules' second DWI arrest occurred 15 months later, within her 18-month probation window. It remains unclear why the judge in the first case did not keep to his word of imposing all of the "backup time" for failure to comply.

Friday, July 26, 2019

Montgomery School Board Expected To Delay Awarding Contract for Boundary Analysis

The Montgomery County Board of Education is expected to delay awarding a contract to conduct a controversial countywide school-attendance boundary analysis by one month.
The school board was expected to award the contract on Monday for the study of attendance boundaries, but will delay that decision to Aug. 29 to further vet proposals, according to a memo from Superintendent Jack Smith.
In January, the Board of Education passed a resolution to hire a consultant to evaluate school boundaries, which determine what area schools students will attend based on where they live. Elementary and middle schools “feed” high schools near them, creating school clusters.
The boundary analysis is the school system’s first comprehensive look at school boundaries in at least 20 years. It has pitted a contingent of students lobbying for more diverse schools against parents who fear long bus rides for their children or decreased home values if boundaries shift.
In late June, Montgomery County Public Schools released a “request for proposals” outlining the duties of the selected contractor for the year-long project...

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Playground Lead Levels Forum: Media reports have shown dangerously high lead levels on DC-area playgrounds and playing fields made from synthetic materials

You’re invited to a Community Forum Monday, July 29 at 7 pm!
Recent media reports have shown dangerously high lead levels on DC-area playgrounds and playing fields made from synthetic materials, such as shredded tires. These playgrounds and fields can be dangerously hot, dangerously hard, and made with no fewer than 13 carcinogens. Recent testing shows high levels of lead at several local school playgrounds, including Takoma, Truesdell, and Janney.
Join us for a panel discussion and Q & A on Monday, July 29 at 7 pm with Dr. Alexander Wooten from Morgan State University, Dr. Diana Zuckerman from the National Center for Health Research, and Dr. Jeff Gearhart from the Ecology Center. Details and registration here.
This forum promises to be an enlightening and thought-provoking discussion of importance to the media as well as parents, grandparents, policy makers, and people who care about our environment.
In addition to a broad overview, the panel will answer specific questions regarding the Ecology Center’s recent findings of high lead on the playgrounds at Takoma, Truesdell, and Janney.
The National Center for Health Research is a nonprofit think tank that has scientifically analyzed the evidence regarding artificial turf and playgrounds, and testified before the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, DC legislators, Maryland legislators, and Connecticut legislators.  To learn more, check out our website at and write “tire” in the search box, to see some of the articles and letters we’ve written on the topic.

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Facebook design flaw let thousands of kids join chats with unauthorized users

Facebook’s Messenger Kids app is built around a simple premise: children shouldn’t be able to talk to users who haven’t been approved by their parents. But a design flaw allowed users to sidestep that protection through the group chat system, allowing children to enter group chats with unapproved strangers.
For the past week, Facebook has been quietly closing down those group chats and alerting users, but has not made any public statements disclosing the issue. The alert, which was obtained by The Verge, reads as follows:
We found a technical error that allowed [CHILD]’s friend [FRIEND] to create a group chat with [CHILD] and one or more of [FRIEND]’s parent-approved friends. We want you to know that we’ve turned off this group chat and are making sure that group chats like this won’t be allowed in the future. If you have questions about Messenger Kids and online safety, please visit our Help Center and Messenger Kids parental controls. We’d also appreciate your feedback.
Facebook confirmed to The Verge that the message was authentic, and said the alert had been sent to thousands of users in recent days. “We recently notified some parents of Messenger Kids account users about a technical error that we detected affecting a small number of group chats,” a Facebook representative said. “We turned off the affected chats and provided parents with additional resources on Messenger Kids and online safety.”..

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

"...11-year-old daughter was sexually harassed by classmates. School staff members resorted to restorative justice methods, like talking circles, to iron out the situation..."

...At a recent school board meeting during which restorative justice was discussed, a handful of parents said the effort prioritizes students who act inappropriately over those who follow the rules.
Melissa King, a mother of three MCPS students, said she believes in restorative justice in certain situations, but MCPS has attempted to apply the practices in instances in which traditional discipline, like detention, suspension or expulsion, are necessary.
King said her 11-year-old daughter was sexually harassed by classmates. School staff members resorted to restorative justice methods, like talking circles, to iron out the situation, she said.
“What is happening in our schools is that students who have been harmed are being coerced into Kumbaya sessions rather than being protected from the egregious atrocities of other students who are barely capable of the empathy for such a talk,” King said. “I am here to ask you to protect our children from other children whose offenses are so egregious and so dangerous that they cannot be solved with a chit-chat over McDonald’s nuggets.”
Vicki Reyes, a mother of two high school students, echoed King’s sentiments and said MCPS behavioral expectations have declined under restorative justice practices.

Leaders of the MCPS restorative justice effort, however, say not all schools have received training on how to successfully carry out restorative justice. While the staff at those schools are encouraged to defer until they receive training, they sometimes prematurely engage, they say...

"Montgomery Co. Public Schools agreed this spring to [Shear's] idea of deleting the student internet histories from the servers of 3 of its biggest vendors: Alphabet Inc.’s Google, Apple Inc.& GoGuardian"

For Maryland lawyer Bradley Shear, his push to protect the data privacy of children became an obsession three years ago when his son, who was in the second grade, was accused by a teacher of googling a profane song in class.
Mr. Shear was convinced his son landed on the webpage by accident, but it brought to mind a troubling question: How long would this incident stick to his son’s digital record?
Starting next month, he won’t have to worry about it. Mr. Shear convinced his son’s school district to wipe clean most of the digital data that the school and its largest outside vendors keep on more than 162,000 students starting as young as kindergarten. It is among the first school districts in the country to schedule an annual purging of student data.
Mr. Shear, who wants “Data Deletion Week” to go national, says he is worried that information stored on distant servers could come back to harm children who make mistakes on social media or with the apps that have become ubiquitous in classrooms.
“I’m a big believer in having a bad day,” he says. But “we’re entering a phase where there’s no such thing as a second chance” as universities and prospective employers are mining more digital clues when making admissions and hiring decisions.
Data generated in the classroom is becoming a heated front in the battle over digital privacy, but privacy experts say the issue is more complicated than it might seem...

...School officials acknowledge “Data Deletion Week” won’t plug all the privacy holes, noting that Montgomery County teachers and administrators now use roughly 1,000 apps and websites to help organize classrooms and promote new forms of learning, each of which has its own policy for collecting and storing data. The district plans to evaluate contracts with all of them and add to the deletion requirement list. It said it can’t purge all student data; it is required by law to retain some records. Parents and students have the right to request that some data be retained...

Monday, July 22, 2019

The74million: Poor, Rural Western Maryland School District Beats MCPS in Math

Analysis: This Poor, Rural Maryland District Is Beating the Odds in Math. Here’s How They Do It, and What I Saw in Their Schools

David Wakelyn
Last year, colleagues and I tried to launch a network of schools to improve math achievement across the Mid-Atlantic states. We didn’t win the outside funding we needed, but along the way we discovered a surprising bright spot: the school district with the greatest number of high-poverty elementary schools beating the odds in Maryland (and second-highest among all the states in the PARCC testing consortium) is one you’ve probably never heard of: the small-city and rural Allegany County.
Nationally, very few schools — about 3 percent — have both high poverty rates and high student achievement. Of the 1,200 elementary and middle schools in Maryland shown below (each circle represents the size of a school, with the poorest schools on the far left), only 23 are in the upper left tier, considered to be beating the odds. Allegany has six such schools, shown in orange, and six more that are close to high-performing. For comparison, Montgomery County, the nation’s 17th-largest school district in suburban Washington, D.C., has 82 schools where more than half of all students qualify for free and reduced-price lunch, yet only three of them are beating the odds.

Comptroller Franchot and Sen. Ben Kramer speak out forcefully against antisemitism in Takoma Park

More elected officials have come out strongly against the ugly rise of antisemitism of Takoma Park residents who are paying to show a film with the message that Jews control the media. Still nothing from County Councilmember Tom Hucker (D-District 5, which includes Takoma Park).

From Comptroller Peter Franchot (D):

Having lived in Takoma Park for decades, and having raised my family in this wonderful city, I can’t tell you how disappointed I am that our City’s government is still planning to show this piece of anti-Semitic garbage on the taxpayers’ dime.

I’m fine with freedom of speech and political expression. I’m not fine with our local government using my tax dollars to peddle the same bigoted dog whistles that have been used to rationalize hatred, discrimination and violence against the Jewish people for generations. I don’t know who in the hell thought this was a good idea, but Kate Stewart and the City Council need to make the call TODAY to cancel this showing and relegate this movie - and its anti-Semitic values - back to the dark fringes of our society.

From State Senator Ben Kramer (D-District 19):

“What is next on the agenda …. Should we reflect on 1933 Germany for just a little guidance? Perhaps soon you will require your Jewish business owners to place Stars of David on their storefronts so that later it will be easier to identify them and smash their windows, or perhaps just a government promoted synagogue burning or two … after all, it’s just the Jews,”

Takoma Park doubles down on antisemitism

The Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington (JCRC) has just released an update on the vicious antisemitic film that the Takoma Park city government, funded by county and city taxpayers, will be showing this week. Takoma Park, supported by their residents, have invited a speaker who espouses violence against Jews, and has stated that, “Israelis have to be bombed, they are a threat to the legitimacy of Palestine, and it is wrong to maintain the State of Israel. It is an illegitimate creation born from colonialism and racism.” The speaker has participated in numerous disruptive activities in the U.S. We suppose this fits very well with Takoma Park city councilmember Peter Kovar's statement that there are, "...all the different sides."

At the public hearing last week, Takoma Park Mayor Kate Stewart stated that the city had engaged Theo Brown, who we suppose invited this speaker for a 'balanced' perspective on the antisemitic movie. This program is endorsed by the city council and the mayor as was made clear at the hearing last week and will be paid for by county and city taxpayers.

The Montgomery County council, while issuing a letter, has not directly called for the antisemitic film to be cancelled. And Tom Hucker, (D-District 5, which represents Takoma Park) did not sign the council's letter.


Montgomery County Public Schools are considering loosening the requirements for substitute teachers. Until now, Montgomery County has required potential substitutes to have at least a Bachelor’s degree or received certification from an accredited program. If the qualifications are lowered, individuals will need an Associate’s degree or a minimum of 60 college credits beginning in the 2019-2020 school year.
According to Bethesda Magazine, there are currently around 120 unfilled substitute requests per day. Substitute teacher shortages are common around the nation, which often means full-time teachers spend their time filling in for other classes instead of dedicating time to grading papers or lesson planning for their own.
Qualifications for substitute teachers vary by districts within the state and neighboring jurisdiction. However, MCPS is the only is the only district that requires a bachelor’s degree...

Sunday, July 21, 2019

Takoma Park MD will show antisemitic movie

The Takoma Park, MD mayor Kate Stewart and city council members Peter Kovar, Kacy Kostiuk, Talisha Searcy, Jarrett Smith, Cindy Dyballa, and Terry Seamens agreed at a city council meeting on July 17 to show a virulently antisemitic movie at their Arts and Humanities Commission film series. During a council meeting they all agreed they were not responsible for the showing of the movie, and the City Manager, Suzanne Ludlow, also said that the city manager’s office was not responsible either. They also stated that the members of the Arts and Humanities commission were not responsible. You can see their discussion and public comments here with public comments beginning at minute 7:35. Nevertheless, the movie, with the over-riding message that Jews control the media, will be shown, paid for by city and Montgomery County taxpayers and under the purview of the City of Takoma Park.
We reached out the Montgomery County council but no one bothered to reply, although the county council did send a letter to Mayor Stewart and the city council stating that, “By sponsoring the film, the City of Takoma Park appears to be legitimizing a premise that American Jews control the media and national politics…” Eight councilmembers signed the letter. Councilmember Tom Hucker (D-District 5), whose district includes Takoma Park, did not sign the letter. No text in the letter clearly stated that Takoma Park should not show the film, stating that the councilmembers had, “…grave concerns.”
Takoma Park citizens are sponsoring the showing of an antisemitic movie at a time when Jews are being attacked and murdered in the United States and antisemitism is on the rise. Based on the consensus of the city council, we can’t wait for them to screen Birth of a Nation so we can discuss the pros and cons of the messages in that movie too.

Friday, July 19, 2019

Ashburton Elementary School physical education teacher will not face any jail time.

Public Information Act Compliance Board will hold its Annual Meeting at 1:00 pm on August 19, 2019

Meeting Announcement

The Public Information Act Compliance Board will hold its Annual Meeting at 1:00 pm on August 19, 2019, at 200 St. Paul Place, Baltimore, Maryland 21202. The public is invited to attend.

If you are interested in attending, please contact Ms. Janice Clark (at or 410-576-6560) NO LATER THAN AUGUST 13 so that we may make the necessary arrangements. When you arrive, please check in at the guard desk in the building lobby.

If you are interested in receiving email notifications about future meetings of the PIACB, please contact Janice Clark

Janice Clark
Administrative Officer
PIA Compliance Board
c/o Office of the Attorney General
Public Access Unit

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Blair adds four new portables - 3,375 students for Fall 2019. Parents have to Buy Promethean Boards for Trailers.

In 2017, Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) added four portables to Blair. Due to the school's increasing student population in the 2019-20 school year, the MCPS Department of Facilities Management is introducing more portables adjacent to the current portables.
According to Principal Renay Johnson, approximately 200 more students will be attending Blair next year compared to the 2018-19 school year when Blair enrolled over 3,200 students. "Right now in the scheduling system, there's 3,375 [students], but you know what happens when school opens: people enroll," Johnson said.
It is likely that the student body will continue to grow, because more people are choosing to come to Blair. "Blair is a choice school...

...Due to limited funds, the new portables may not be equipped with Promethean boards. "Unfortunately, high school portables don't come with [Promethean boards]," Johnson said. "The ones that do have them, I've had to purchase using school funds. I don't know if we'll have enough school funds to get enough Promethean boards, because we have other priorities."..

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

2014: Live Music Venues, In The Red. "For 2012, Strathmore’s operating expenses were $8,426,877. Income was $5,483,932. That is a deficit of $2,942,945. I would say the place is bleeding cash."

| Published: 
My Two Cents is a weekly opinion column from Bethesda resident Joseph Hawkins. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of
Recently, BethesdaNow reported that the small, 250-seat music venue in White Flint to be operated by Strathmore will open this fall.
I love live music and I try especially hard to take in at least one event a month. In April, I saw Hugh Masekela at Birchmere and Kenny Barron at University of Maryland’s Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center (I’m really fond of the Kay Theater and its intmacy — not a bad seat in the house). Later this month, I’ll see El DeBarge at the Howard Theatre.
Still, I’m going to ask a question that’s perhaps a bit music-unfriendly. Do we need really need another music venue? I’m asking purely from a financial angle, because I find it hard to believe that most venues turn a profit.
Recently, one Bethesda music venue actually went public with its money problems. We now know that after one year in operation, the Bethesda Blues & Jazz Club in downtown Bethesda has yet to turn a profit. The club is asking for county help to fund sound and lighting equipment it thought would be left over from the theater’s last tenant.
Perhaps their $35 Sunday brunch gospel special isn’t special enough.
I got to wondering whether the big dog on the block, Strathmore, turns a profit.
It doesn’t.
Frankly, the Strathmore financials surprised me. (I applaud Strathmore for putting their financials on their website. Many Montgomery County nonprofit organizations seem afraid to share this info.)
For 2012, Strathmore’s operating expenses were $8,426,877. Income was $5,483,932. That is a deficit of $2,942,945. I would say the place is bleeding cash. (I reached out to discuss the issue with Strathmore officials, to no avail.)
In its IRS 990 — the federal tax submission required by nonprofits — Strathmore noted the following about running its 2012 deficit:
“We experienced significant reductions in individual and corporate contributions. …Contributed income, therefore could not cover the operating loss and the year ended with a deficit, which was further compounded by significant loss of investment income.”

And so, I have to ask, why is Strathmore looking to operate a new venue when it has trouble funding what it has?...

East Bay School District Bans Chemical Found In Roundup Weed Killer

From reporter Betty Yu, KPIX5, CBS SF-Bay Area, on June 24, 2019. Full story here.

CONCORD (KPIX 5) — The Mount Diablo Unified School District voted unanimously to ban the active ingredient found in the Roundup weed killer from school property Monday evening.

The proposed ban was added to the agenda after many parents and community members emailed the district about their concerns.

The school board also voted that any remaining glyphosate products be immediately removed from all district sites. The district said it had not used any products since October of last year.

Sheila Hill has been a garden educator in the district for the last eight years.

“There’s a growing number of studies showing that Roundup is a carcinogen, it’s not safe, it’s an endocrine disruptor,” said Hill. “It’s definitely not something that should be used around children.”

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Montgomery County Taxpayers League Planning Meeting Wednesday, July 17th 7pm

This is a REMINDER that the MC Taxpayers League (MCTL) Planning Meeting is this Wednesday, July 17th. It will be in the Patuxent Conference Room, 6th floor of the County Council Bldg, 100 Maryland Ave. in Rockville, MD. The meeting will begin promptly at 7:00 pm. 
This is an important meeting. The principal objective will be to continue assigning leadership and recruiting support for key MCTL committees and planned endeavors, such as the Education Summit.  
I HOPE TO SEE AS MANY OF YOU AT THE MEETING AS POSSIBLE. Once the people are in place, the Taxpayers League can be the even more potent advocate we all want it to be.

Following is the expected Agenda for the meeting:
  1. Opening Remarks
  2. Review of Agenda
  3. Fall Education Summit
  4. Website, Soc Media & Public Outreach, Info "Push-out"
  5. Increasing Awareness of MC Taxpayers League
  6. Growing the Research & Analysis, and Advocacy function
  7. Governing Structure – Board Nominating Committee
  8. Post-meeting Introductions and Conversations
The state of our organization is promising. The level of activity is high and growing, and the potential for the Taxpayers League is considerable. 
I look forward to seeing everyone.
Ed Amatetti, President
Montgomery County Taxpayers League

Instructor at Art Center in Gaithersburg Charged with Sexual Abuse of Two Juvenile Male Students

Detectives from the Montgomery County Department of Police – Special Victims Investigations Division (SVID) have arrested and charged Gene Alphonse Brugada Pasay, age 30, of the 14300 block of Rose Tree Court in Silver Spring, with two counts of sexual abuse of a minor.  Pasay committed these offenses while he was an instructor at the Renaissance Art Center located on Gaither Road in Gaithersburg.  The two male victims, ages 10 and 11 at the time of the abuse, were Pasay’s students at the center.
On June 4, SVID investigators received information about possible sexual abuse committed by Pasay.  Detectives spoke with the two victims, who stated that the abuse occurred between September 2018 and March 2019 during an art class at the Renaissance Art Center.  The abuse included (but was not limited to) Pasay making sexual gestures, talking about topics of a sexual and graphic nature, and showing the two students inappropriate videos and photographs.
On July 15, Pasay was arrested and transported to the Central Processing Unit.  He is being held without bond.
Investigators are asking that anyone who believes that he/she was victimized by Pasay or anyone who believes that his/her child was victimized by Pasay to please call the Special Victims Investigations Division at 240-773-5400.

Maryland says confidential data must be encrypted. For 1.4 million students, it wasn’t.

“Sensitive, personally identifiable information” of more than 1.4 million students and more than 200,000 teachers was improperly stored by the Maryland State Department of Education, leaving them at risk of identity theft, according to a recent audit.
The review found that the department stored the names and Social Security numbers of students and teachers “in clear text,” even though Maryland’s information security policy calls for confidential data to be protected using encryption or some other “substantial” mitigating controls.
The personal information did not appear, as of June 2018, to be adequately protected by data-loss prevention software.
“Appropriate information system security controls need to exist to ensure that this information is safeguarded and not improperly disclosed,” said the audit, which was published earlier this month.
The report on deficiencies in the state network were released as governments and private entities are working to protect their computer networks and databases from bad actors. The state of Maryland reported earlier this month that hackers accessed the names and Social Security numbers of as many as 78,000 people from two older databases run by the state Department of Labor. The information, accessed in April, belonged to people who received unemployment benefits in 2012 or sought a general equivalency diploma in 2009, 2010 or 2014.
The July 2 audit of the education department found that the state did not have assurances that student data managed by third-party contractors was properly stored. The department also lacked a “complete information technology disaster recovery plan” or sufficient malware protection to provide “adequate assurance that its computers were properly protected,” according to the review...

Monday, July 15, 2019

Audit critical of state agency that funds services for people with developmental disabilities

The Maryland agency responsible for funding community-based services for people with developmental disabilities had significant issues with its process, failed to comply with state procurement regulations and did not properly monitor services it funded, a critical legislative audit released Friday said.
The Developmental Disabilities Administration failed to identify millions of dollars in overpayments and missed out on millions more in federal reimbursements at a time that the agency’s website says there is high demand for funding for services and it cannot meet all requests.
“We determined that DDA’s accountability and compliance level was unsatisfactory,” the audit said. “The primary factors contributing to the unsatisfactory rating were the significance of our audit findings and the number of repeat findings.”
The audit found that the agency had not sufficiently addressed five of the ten findings from a previous audit.
The Developmental Disabilities Administration plans, develops policies and funds Maryland’s system of services for people with developmental disabilities and their families. Its community-based services are funded through Medicaid, a waiver program or state-funded services.
In one significant issue revealed by the audit, the agency did not identify recurring overpayments made over several years totaling $1.7 million to a provider. Instead those overpayments were discovered by the provider.
The overpayments were of an improper designation in 36 people receiving shared living services that cost less than the residential services they were improperly designated for over a period between December 2014 and February 2017.
But the auditors also believed that the total amount could have been higher because the Developmental Disabilities Administration failed to identify whether overpayments were made outside of that time period.
“We estimated that additional overpayments totaling $2.4 million were made to this provider for these 36 consumers during the period from July 2011 through November 2014,” the audit said. “We did not attempt to identify other consumers which should have been billed for shared living services rather than residential services and to estimate the full extent of overpayments made to this provider or to other providers.”..

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Appeals court rules Trump can't block people on Twitter

The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday ruled that President Trump cannot block Twitter users from his official account, finding that the practice is discriminatory.
The ruling upholds a lower court ruling that also found Trump cannot block the Twitter users.
The president uses his Twitter account to make announcements, from personnel changes within his administration to the implementation of new policies.
The judges wrote "that the First Amendment does not permit a public official who utilizes a social media account for all manner of official purposes to exclude persons from an otherwise-open online dialogue because they expressed views with which the official disagrees."
The Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University had brought forward the lawsuit on behalf of seven people who had been blocked by Trump on Twitter.
The judges wrote in the opinion that Trump’s Twitter account shows “all the trappings of an official, state‐run account,” and that Trump and his aides have described his tweets as “official statements.”
And they noted that the National Archives, “the agency of government responsible for maintaining the government’s records, has concluded that the President’s tweets are official records.”
The judges sided with the blocked Twitter users, who argued that the other options for viewing Trump’s tweets are too burdensome. And they noted that the individuals were blocked after they posted tweets critical of the president...