Guilford County Schools (GCS) recently learned that a school employee mistakenly emailed an electronic file containing personal information for about 456 rising Page High seniors*.
The information was inadvertently sent to a Page High student's guardian on Tuesday, July 2. The next day, the individual who received it recognized there was an issue and contacted the employee. The employee immediately asked the guardian to delete the file and told school officials what happened.
The information included student names, addresses, telephone numbers, course enrollments, grades, district-assigned identification numbers and other data points found on student transcripts. The information did not include students' Social Security numbers.
GCS immediately started an investigation and worked to secure the data files, which had been copied in an electronic or portable document format (PDF). The investigation, which continued through the Fourth of July holiday and weekend, has confirmed that the information was shared with just one non-GCS person, and that the file sharing was not intentional.
"We work very hard in GCS to protect student privacy and data, and we are very sorry that this has occurred," said Maurice O. Green, superintendent, noting that GCS plans to review and strengthen the district's data sharing protocols, training and communications. "Fortunately, this error was caught quickly so the exposure is limited. We are deeply appreciative to the individual receiving the email for recognizing the error and for notifying us so quickly."
Authorized personnel may keep a printed copy of student transcripts, or use an electronic file copy (PDF) of the data to answer questions, register students and complete course schedules when the secure, online access to the student database is not available. These files are used primarily during the summer, as one school year closes out and the online student data system is unavailable while it is updated for the coming year. The employee who sent the data was an authorized user.
"The employee who sent the file was emailing the guardian in response to unrelated questions and somehow accidentally attached the data file," said Patrice Faison, Page High principal. "The employee feels terrible about this, and we have apologized to our parents for the error and any concern it may have caused."
GCS and Page High have taken multiple steps to share information about the error. The school sent a voicemail message to families of rising twelfth-graders, and will also mail letters to the custodial parents/legal guardians of each affected student. General information also was shared by voicemail and email with parents, staff and community members.
In addition to the actions taken by Page High personnel, GCS has posted information on its website (
), GCSTV and district social media outlets. GCS is reviewing its data-sharing practices to determine whether there are other measures that should be taken to prevent a similar incident from occurring in the future.
GCS set up a special phone line and email address for Page High parents, particularly those of rising seniors*. The phone number is 336-332-0810 and staff will be available until 8 p.m. tonight and from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. tomorrow. The email address is
. The district also created a special website with more information about the issue, including a sample transcript: www.gcsnc.com/pagehighdata.
*Students were in 11th grade at Page High during the 2012-2013 school year.