ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – The father of an Albuquerque Public Schools student is still baffled and angry after sending a harsh email to his daughter’s teacher one afternoon and receiving an incredibly nasty response from a stranger.
“It’s hard to keep a level head because this whole situation — it’s a violation,” Christopher Lippert said. The single dad told KRQE he’ll do anything for his 13-year-old daughter Olivia. And like most families, the two are trying to tread water in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. “Right now we’re, you know, just trying to manage,” Lippert shared.
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When class resumed in person for his 8th grader, he said he noticed Olivia was struggling. Everyone back together, wearing face masks and trying to abide by a number of safety protocols was overwhelming. Lippert said his daughter’s mental health took a hit. So, they enrolled her in APS’s online school, eCADEMY, full time.
“And during the time that we were getting her transitioned, it took like two weeks or so for everything to get processed and she fell like noticeably far behind,” Lippert explained. It’s been a challenge catching her up. And, the dad said his job delivering medication around the state rarely allows him to be home to check in on her. He shared, “If I could stay here every day and work here every day and be around her, I would, but that’s not an option.”
Lippert doesn’t want pity, but he hopes his situation provides some insight as to why he responded the way he did to an email from his daughter’s teacher, Denise Garcia. She asked about Olivia falling behind.
“I got an email from her teacher asking what my daughter’s challenges was because she was having trouble with her attendance and getting her – handing her work and stuff done,” Lippert explained.
He responded to Garcia’s email by first thanking her; then Lippert divulged details about his daughter’s recent mental health struggles during this “COVID nonsense,” adding “she’s shy, and doesn’t like engaging with people.” That point led Lippert to question how the school is helping his daughter stay focused and learn. He asks, “When she would appear to ask for help most of the teachers I see do a short video and disappear, and assign worksheets. How is this teaching?”
Lippert finishes his email by challenging Garcia to help while taking a swing at APS teachers. He wrote, “I find most of the people in your profession irredeemably despicable…prove to me that you care about my child more than the teachers union. Help me get her counseling.”
“I can acknowledge – yes – I was abrasive in my initial remarks to the teacher,” Lippert told KRQE. “I was not trying to attack the teacher. I have a lack of faith in APS as a school district and the way they’ve been helping the kids throughout what’s been going on ever since like all the COVID stuff started.”
Lippert received an emailed response three hours later, but not from his daughter’s teacher. The subject line read: “You got some nerve.”
The writer, who described herself as a 20-year-old nursing student, spent 10 paragraphs ripping Lippert apart. She called him “stupid,” “lazy” and wrote she’s angry with him for “sending horrendous and harassing emails to teachers.”
“Seems like you just like to blame other people for your shortcomings as a father because you don’t know how to deal with your own kid,” the woman wrote. Then, she stuck up for teachers.
“You wanna know what it is like? Babysitting over 150 other people’s kids and trying to encourage them to all pass when they don’t give a s*** and their parents don’t give a s***.” She tacked on a lecture about accountability – “And why don’t YOU get your kids some help. Again, you’re expecting others to do your parenting for you. But since you’re clearly to stupid to do it, I guess I’ll do it for you.” The 20-year-old listed places in Albuquerque that offer mental health help told the dad to “suck it up buttercup!” and ended by “kindly” asking him to “screw off.”
“It just blew my mind and infuriated me to no end,” Lippert said of the stranger’s email. He responded to let her know he alerted the District. That prompted the woman to apologize, writing “The teacher was not at all involved. I will take full responsibility for everything.”
“At no point should this outside party have ever gotten into the situation and expose my daughter’s information or breach the school’s security,” Lippert said.
The next day, he showed up at the eCADEMY’s Office to file a report. And that’s where he overheard that the person who sent him that nasty email is the teacher’s daughter. The district launched an investigation, but APS has no jurisdiction over a teacher’s daughter.
“If I were to violate the HIPAA information of any of the people that I was delivering medication for, I’d come up on charges or I’d lose my job,” Lippert said.
APS’s report concluded Denise Garcia left her “work computer open and unlocked in a shared environment” and there’s no proof she “voluntarily shared any confidential information.” It states there’s also no proof the teacher “didn’t purposefully share” the father’s email. Despite that, the district’s outside investigator somehow determined this “was an inadvertent breach of confidentiality” and Garcia violated APS’s technology policy. As a result, she can be fired, face a civil lawsuit or even criminal charges.
Lippert explained he doesn’t want Garcia to lose her job, but said she has a responsibility to keep his daughter’s personal information private. “Getting her in to get the help she needs is my biggest concern. And making sure she has the tools she needs to succeed are at the center of why I’m doing this,” Lippert said, “And I don’t want anybody to violate her privacy or her rights like that.”
KRQE requested Garcia’s personnel record to find out more about her time with the district. No issues are listed. It does reveal she’s taught in APS for 14 years and won ‘Teacher of the Month’ in January 2018. APS wouldn’t comment on if Garcia faced any disciplinary action for the policy violation.
APS’s investigation also found that a lot of staffers, including Garcia, aren’t aware of their duty to safeguard private student information. And, the report added Garcia took the training that covered the issue three times in the last three years.