Data Breaches | News
NC District Mops up Student Data Exposure Mishap
- By Dian Schaffhauser
A Greensboro, NC school district has gone public with a recent data breach. Guilford County Schools (GCS) notified its community that personal data about 456 students was inadvertently sent to one of the students' guardians. The information didn't include Social Security numbers; however, it did have student names, addresses, phone numbers, course enrollments, grades, district-assigned identification numbers, and other data found on student transcripts.
The person who received the data — in the form of a PDF file — notified the staff member who had sent it. That person asked the guardian to delete the file and then told school officials at Page High School, where the students were enrolled, what had happened. Those affected were 11th graders during the 2012-2013 school year.
Working through the July 4 holiday, the district ran an investigation that confirmed, according to a statement, "the information was shared with just one [non-district] person, and that the file sharing was not intentional."
The district said that authorized staff may keep a printed copy of student transcripts or use a PDF file in order to handle questions, register students, and create course schedules when online access to the student information system isn't available. This practice is apparently especially common during the summer when the student information system is being updated for the coming school year. The employee who sent the data was an authorized user.
"We work very hard...to protect student privacy and data, and we are very sorry that this has occurred," said Superintendent Maurice Green, noting that GCS plans to review and strengthen the district's data sharing protocols, training and communications. "Fortunately, this error was caught quickly so the exposure is limited. We are deeply appreciative to the individual receiving the email for recognizing the error and for notifying us so quickly."
Dian Schaffhauser is a senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal and Campus Technology. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @schaffhauser.