School district officials blame a database error and ask those who mistakenly received the 348 confidential letters to please return them unopened.
Seattle Public Schools sent out 348 letters with students’ test results to the wrong addresses because of a database error, district officials said Friday.
The letters, sent Feb. 12, contained students’ names, school-district identification numbers, test results and eligibility status for the district’s advanced-learning program. That information is confidential under the federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).
Earlier this week, a staff member discovered that a database connected some student names with the wrong home mailing addresses, the district said. Officials then delayed sending the remaining 3,800 letters.
The district has notified both the families that received the wrong letters, and those whose results were sent to incorrect addresses, district spokeswoman Stacy Howard said. Families who received letters not meant for them have been asked to write “return to sender” and not open them.
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“We deeply apologize for this error,” Howard said. “We understand exactly how concerning this is for families and community. We recognize the importance of maintaining privacy for our students and their personal information.”
District officials reported the error to the U.S. Department of Education.
FERPA is a federal law that gives parents the right to keep most of their children’s educational records private until the child is 18 or enters any postsecondary institution.
The district said it will follow any steps the federal education department suggests to rectify the situation. If the district doesn’t do soit could face sanctions, including loss of funding, according to the FERPA website.
Since 2005, there have been 220 instances of educational institutions across the nation unintentionally disclosing records, according to the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse.
In 2014, information on 8,000 Seattle students was improperly released in an email to one student’s legal guardian. The district ended its relationship with the law firm that released the documents.
In 2008, the school district inadvertently released personal information, including Social Security numbers, to a union that represented some district workers. The district agreed to pay for identity-theft protection for up to 5,000 district employees.