JUST IN: Nearly 100 LAUSD email accounts tied to Ashley Madison hack
Craig Clough | August 25, 2015
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Close to 100 LA Unified email addresses were used to set up accounts at AshleyMadison.com, a website for people seeking extramarital sexual affairs, according to information that was posted online recently by hackers.
Dozens of the email accounts appear to be connected to active employees, both men and women, including principals, teachers, athletic directors, athletic coaches, administrators, cafeteria workers and at least one school police officer. Ten of the email accounts are either no longer active or fake, and 18 are connected to student email accounts.
According to media reports, Ashley Madison did not confirm users’ email accounts, making it possible to sign up using someone’s account without their knowledge. LA School Report sent an email to each active account asking why an LAUSD email address was used to sign up for Ashley Madison, and only two responded. Both denied that they had set up the account themselves, and one, an assistant principal, claimed she has been the repeated victim of identify theft over the last few years.
So far, the district has little to say about the subject, with Communications Director Shannon Haber issuing a “no comment at this time” when asked if an employee using a district email account to access the site could result in disciplinary actions.
When asked if using lausd.net emails for personal use violated district policy, LA Unified General Counsel David Holmquist said, “It depends…we have an Acceptable Use Policy that governs.”
According to the policy, which was just updated this month, and the district’s guidelines for using social media and its Code of Conduct, using district email accounts and the servers that support them to access a site like Ashley Madison appears to be in violation of several district policies.
The policies, which apply even when the employee is not on school grounds and during non-working hours, states that employees should make reasonable efforts to avoid using district facilities or equipment for personal use and should not seek out, display, or circulate material that is sexually explicit while using district equipment. Ashley Madison’s site, while not X-rated, is sexually graphic, full of photos of scantily clad people and explicit language.
For a district that has been rocked over the last few years by scandals, including the Miramonte sexual abuse scandal that cost the district over $169 million in civil lawsuit payouts, the news from the Ashley Madison hack is another blow, and it is hard to imagine LA Unified leaders will look kindly on teachers and administrators found to be using a district email account for sex.
In the wake of Miramonte, the district created its stringent social media policy and heavy use of “teacher jail,” pulling employees from their duties as soon as any potential violation of district policy came to light, whether it was sexual in nature or something as simple as mishandling field trips or science experiments. Investigations can drag on for months while the employees are told to go home or to report to an administrative office where they are given little if any responsibilities.
The Ashley Madison hack has been producing national headlines daily since information on the site’s 32 million accounts was leaked last week, and LA Unified isn’t the only organization embarrassed by it, as thousands of the site’s users around the country are being connected to government email accounts.
Several well-known people have been exposed as having an account, including Vice President Joe Biden‘s son, Hunter, who denied that he created an account in his name. Multiple lawsuits and criminal investigations connected to the hack are in the works.
It’s unclear what actions, if any, LA unified might take if any of the emails with lausd.net are found to belong to current employees. The district’s Responsible Use Policy says inappropriate use of district technology could lead to disciplinary and legal action, that includes “criminal prosecution by government authorities.”