Personal information of 2,000 students mistakenly exposed

Max Karp

DCPS officials accidentally leaked the personal information of 2,000 DCPS students experiencing homelessness. The data, which included students’ names, ID numbers, schools, attendance history, housing status, and eligibility for Special Education and English Language Learner services, was publicly available for six months before it was taken down.

The information was mistakenly provided to Councilmember David Grosso’s office in response to questions asked by the Committee of Education, which Grosso leads, during a performance oversight hearing. The information was published on his website on February 5. It was not until six months later, on August 9, that a community member reported the error to Councilmember Grosso’s office.

Student data of this nature should never have been provided by DCPS to the Committee as part of the performance oversight process,” Matthew Nocella from Councilmember Grosso’s office stated. Upon learning that the information was available on his website, Grosso immediately removed the file and notified DCPS of the error.

In a letter sent to affected families, DCPS Interim Chancellor Amanda Alexander apologized for the mistake. “Protection of student and family privacy is of utmost importance to DCPS and we consider this incident unacceptable. We apologize for this situation and want to assure you that we are taking steps to ensure a situation like this does not happen again.”

Interviewed students at Wilson were upset with the situation, feeling that it violated the privacy of their peers in DCPS.

“That was an invasion of [those students’] privacy and people should take responsibility for their actions,” junior Julian Jacobs said. Senior Jack Darnell agreed, stating that “the fact that [the spreadsheet] was on the website for so long is just irresponsible.”

DCPS is making changes to ensure sensitive student information is not shared again. “Moving forward, DCPS will ensure that our personnel are fully aware of proper protocols around sensitive information so that the privacy of our students and families is always protected,” DCPS said in a statement.