COTTAGE GROVE, MINN. - It was supposed to be a typical back-to-school email containing busing information for students who attend South Washington County Public Schools. But when parents scrolled to the bottom they found a link to an Excel spreadsheet that contained the personal information of over 9,500 families.
A parent who wishes to remain anonymous forwarded KARE 11 the email she received from the district yesterday evening, titled "Preliminary Fall Bus Information."
The spreadsheet includes parents' addresses, cell phone numbers and email addresses. It also included the pick-up and drop-off locations for the parents' children.
The district admitted on social media that including the link in the email was a mistake. The district spokesperson says the policy regarding student privacy is on Thursday night's school board agenda. The district is also working on an updated opt-out form which will be posted on the district website next week.
Message to Parents pic.twitter.com/NFBrmlPklq— Keith Jacobus (@SuperOffice833) August 17, 2017
On Thursday district spokesperson Shelly Schafer released the following statement to KARE 11.
On August 16, 2017, the South Washington County School District’s Transportation Department sent an email to the parents of most students in the District. Unfortunately, as a result of an employee error, a document containing both public and private educational data on students was inadvertently attached to the email. The District apologizes for this error and is asking that parents delete the attachment and refrain from forwarding it.
The attachment that was inadvertently sent contains the following data on students: name, grade, student identification number, email address, mailing address, phone number, bus route, pick up and drop off times, pick up and drop off locations, and school of attendance. Although some of the information that was disclosed is classified as public directory information under District Policy 515, some of the information is classified as private educational data and should not have been sent to the parents of other students in the District.
The District has commenced an investigation to determine how the disclosure occurred. At this point, we know the disclosure was the result of an inadvertent employee error. We are now looking at what led to the error so we can take steps to prevent similar errors from occurring in the future. After the investigation is completed, the District will prepare a report. Parents may access the report by requesting that the District send them a copy by U.S. mail or by email.