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BCPS IEP Meetings Postponed Due To Ransomware Attack

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Legally-required meetings about the services special education students receive in Baltimore County Public Schools are being postponed because of the November 24 ransomware attack.

Advocates say the delay could hurt some of the county schools’ most vulnerable children.

There are around 16,000 special education students in Baltimore County with IEPs, Individualized Education Plans, that specify what services and accommodations those students must receive.

Sharon Saroff, who is a special ed. consultant, said the postponement of IEP meetings can create a problem if a student is missing a needed service that can’t be added without a meeting.

“So the student isn’t getting a free and appropriate public education, which is what that IEP is all about,” Saroff said.

Kathryn Chib has chaired IEP meetings at a Baltimore County school. She said timelines for providing services are set in motion at those meetings. Postponing meetings could disrupt those timelines.

“Which then could affect a child’s ability to get the services that they need,” Chib said.

School officials declined multiple requests for an interview. In an email, a school spokesman confirmed the postponements.

“As with other functions of the school system, we have had to postpone IEP Team meetings because through the ransomware attack we lost some capabilities needed to do them,” wrote spokesman Charles Herndon. “We're working to resolve this as soon as possible and, in anticipation of a recovery, notifying schools of our status on a week-to-week basis.”

Electronic versions of the special education plans are not accessible since the ransomware attack. Herndon wrote they have been able to work around that with hard copies of IEPs.

“The bottom line is that services are continuing just as they have all year with our students who have IEPs,” Herndon wrote.

Classes had to be canceled for 3 days following the cyberattack. School officials have said little about the investigation, which drew the ire of elected officials, including members of the Baltimore County Council and County Executive Johnny Olszewski.

IEP meetings switched to being virtual once the COVID-19 pandemic began in March. Saroff said school officials have not been transparent enough throughout the pandemic.

“Be up front with everybody so we have a better idea of what’s going on,” Saroff said.

Chib advised parents that they have more power in the IEP process than they typically are led to believe.

“If something feels not right, it probably isn’t when it comes to your child’s wellbeing,” Chib said. “Don’t be afraid to stand up for your child.”

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