Seattle Public Schools is currently investigating how thousands of student special education records containing private information were leaked to the public.
Private information including names, addresses and possibly more was accidentally given to the public. The district made every effort to either get it back or have it destroyed.
Parents were notified of the leak last Thursday in a letter from interim Superintendent Dr. Larry Nyland. Nyland admitted to discovering the issue on Tuesday night. He let parents know that a law firm held by the district in retention to help with a complaint against the district had accidentally released personal student information to an individual working on the case.
Nyland said the law firm has been let go, and the district is “working to ensure that all improperly released records are retrieved or destroyed.”
The school district is suing Samuel Morley, hoping that doing so will force him to destroy the documents pertaining to over 7,400 students.
While most of the information pertained to special education students, Nyland said that some information could have affected thousands more students.
“Seattle Public Schools is looking into the exact extent of the disclosure and will be sending follow-up communications to affected families,” Nyland wrote in his letter to parents.
Morley said that he had only showed the documents momentarily to a reporter for KING/5 News before they were destroyed. He was given the information as part of a release of school district emails pertaining to his administrative claim against the district he brought in August through the state Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction. The action was brought on behalf of a student.
The confidential documents were sent as two PDF files to Morley. The first, sent on November 7, totaled 271 pages. The second, totaling 457 pages, was sent November 11.
Morley sent an email to school board members and others to inform them that he had the documents. Court records show that email was sent at 8:30pm. In the email, Morley said the district legal office should never have provided those documents to an outside law firm.
Lara Hruska, the Preg, O’Donnell and Gillette attorney who sent Morley the documents, said that Morley had asked for records pertaining to one child and she thought she was sending just that one record.
“Unbeknownst to me at the time I sent them to Mr. Morley, the attachments to the emails could be viewed by him upon receipt,” Hruska said in the declaration. “Some of these attachments inadvertently contained confidential, personally identifiable information on other students.”
Hruska said she became aware of the mistake after Morley had sent his email to school board members. Upon her realization, she called Morley and then sent him an email apologizing, saying she was unaware the PDF contained working links.
Since the letter to parents was released, Nyland has said that the district was made aware that the documents were destroyed.
“We received confirmation yesterday that the individual provided the court with certification that the documents have been deleted and the individual possesses no copies, electronic or otherwise,” Nyland said in the statement Tuesday.