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South Washington County Schools

District 833 takes steps to ensure the protection of student information

Following the inadvertent release of student transportation data last month, the South Washington County School District has taken “robust” preventative actions that are “in line with industry best practice recommendations.”  That is the conclusion of a security expert who has reviewed the numerous measures the District has taken to address the inadvertent release of data and to prevent a similar release from occurring in the future. 

The District’s top priority has always been ensuring that all students are safe while at school and while traveling to and from school.  District administrators have worked with parents to address their concerns about student safety.  In the days following the data release, the District’s transportation department began implementing changes to bus routes. Families were notified of their child’s updated route information in a letter at the end of August.  In addition, during the first week of school, all elementary and middle school teachers spoke with their students regarding bus stop safety and walking guidelines. 

After discovering that the release of data was the result of an inadvertent human error, the District made software changes, increased staff training, and implemented new practices that are designed to prevent similar errors from occurring in the future.  For instance, the District made changes to its rapid email notification system to prevent data files from inadvertently being linked to emails.  The District also arranged for training for staff members who use the rapid email notification system.  Finally, the District will no longer use its rapid email notification system to share bus route information. Instead, bus route information will be posted on Parent Portal, which is a secure, password protected web service.

Superintendent Keith Jacobus has been personally involved in overseeing many of the changes that have been made.  “We understand the frustration and concern expressed by our parents and community members regarding this human error.  It is my sincere hope that all those impacted will see that the District has taken this matter seriously and is working to make sure this type of incident does not occur in the future,” said Dr. Jacobus.

The District’s actions to date have been well received.  Consistent with the feedback it has received from an outside security expert, the District has received positive feedback from the U.S. Department of Education.  In addition, Beth Rauker, a parent in the District, recently stated:  “I appreciate the steps the District is taking to protect student information going forward.  They were very responsive when I reached out to offer my expertise, and I look forward to working with them, and other community members in the security field, to leverage our professional skills to help our community.”  Ms. Rauker and other community members who work in the security field will be convening quarterly to review the District’s security protocols and to make recommendations for further improvements. 

A full report on the investigation into the inadvertent release of student data can be viewed by clicking here