Judging from the number of folks who read Tuesday's post, there was a lot of interest in the story about a law firm that sent out the confidential information of approximately 8000 Seatle students, most of them special education students.
The Seattle Times carried a story on the incident, which identified the law firm as Preg O’Donnell & Gillett, which has offices in Seattle, Portland and Anchorage. The information was released to a legal guardian of a student in a lawsuit over special education services. The guardian alerted school district officials that he had a received an e-mail containing documents with information about individual students, including whole special-education plans, disciplinary records, student test scores and transportation records with students’ names and home addresses.
The law firm did not respond to emails from The Seattle Times seeking comment.
The school district is asking for assistance from the U.S. Department of Education to investigate how it happened. The federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act protects the privacy of student records for any school receiving money from the U.S. Department of Education.
Although there are some exceptions, lawyers generally must black out confidential student information on documents before providing them to lawyers or anyone else.
The guardian says he that while he doesn’t think the firm deliberately jeopardized students’ personal information, he does suspect that the firm intended to bury him in documents to make his case more difficult to pursue. “I hope that they were just incompetent and not malicious,” he said.
I suspect the firm will not be receiving any further work from the school district.