Privacy & Security

Agency Releases Confidential Info of Thousands of D.C. Students

By Corey Mitchell — March 27, 2015 1 min read

The District of Columbia’s office of the state superintendent of education released confidential data for thousands of students while responding to a Freedom of Information Act request from Internet news site BuzzFeed.

The disclosed data includes student names, birth dates, grade levels, gender, race, ethnicity, English-language-learner classification, special education status, and school and disciplinary records, but Social Security numbers were not revealed, the district said.

BuzzFeed reports that one Microsoft Excel file sent to them included the private data of “more than 80,000 students.” The district attempted to redact the information, but BuzzFeed reporters were able to review the data when they transferred the data to a non-Excel file.

The office of the state superintendent of education operates like a state-level agency, monitoring programs for D.C.'s district-run and charter schools. In the wake of the inadvertent data release, Superintendent Hanseul Kang said her staff is working to beef up security measures.

“We will be working with the deputy mayor for education and other education agencies in the district as part of a task force that will engage data-privacy experts to ensure that D.C. becomes a leader in protecting student data privacy,” Kang said in a statement. “Please know that I recognize the serious and troubling nature of this breach. I apologize for this situation, and want to assure you that improving our security procedures will be one of my top priorities in my first weeks and months as state superintendent of education.”

A version of this news article first appeared in the District Dossier blog.