Over 300 Wilson students’ special education information leaked

Elie Salem

Wilson students with IEPs or 504 plans had their special education information leaked to multiple sources outside of DCPS. The breach stymied efforts by administration to consolidate the information of special needs students.

504 plans and Individual Education Programs (IEPs) are educational accommodations for students with learning difficulties, such as extra test-taking time or scheduled reminders to stay focused in class. The leak affected 117 students with 504 plans and 189 students with IEPs.

DCPS has not determined who leaked the information, nor when it was leaked or how long the information was compromised.

Before the breached file was created, administration noticed that teachers were not always giving students their full accomodations because the usual process for finding which students had a 504 plan or a IEP was excessively tedious, requiring teachers to manually input each student in their classes to find out.

Assistant Principal Ronald Anthony, who is in charge of supervising special education, attempted to streamline that process by creating a Google document with all the information. The document contained the names of all students with a 504 plan or IEP, along with their corresponding accommodation and class schedule, and was shared with all Wilson instructors.

According to Martin, the Google Drive file elicited complaints from multiple teachers. “A couple of teachers said ‘we don’t think that you should have this in a google doc, we don’t need this information, this isn’t the right approach,’” said Martin. She further speculated that perhaps teacher frustration was due in part to increased accountability with the new system, as instructors were required to sign confirming they had seen the document and would make the appropriate accommodations.

Significant measures were taken by Wilson to prevent the information from being shared. Wilson changed the document settings to ensure the file could not be downloaded or saved as a pdf, but that no precaution could prevent copying the link of the file itself.

Multiple students The Beacon interviewed stated that while they were frustrated by the leak, they did not think it was a major issue. “The fact that my information about me having an IEP or 504 plan got leaked is not that much of a big deal to me,” said junior Nicholas Kiryuken. “But some people may think that those with an IEP or 504 plan are mental or something and I don’t really want to be viewed as that.”

Junior Aidan Ward agreed. “I don’t really find that concerning because it’s not like that big information to me. I was annoyed by it, but kinda thought it was funny.”

As a result of the breach, administration is reverting back to the old manual system of storing student accommodations. “These files have all been deleted, they’re all gone,” said Martin.

The breach comes after the data of 2,000 homeless DCPS students was mistakenly published online and left up for six months by DCPS.

DCPS was in the midst of a data security training program when the leak at Wilson occurred. “[We are] training all DCPS staff and schools on student data security and their responsibilities under federal law to protect student privacy [and] working to ensure that DCPS staff use only approved and Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (FERPA) compliant web platforms for sharing confidential student information,” said DCPS Research and Surveys Specialist Emily Kim.