Friday, June 17, 2011

Oops: Private company shreds Florence 1 student records

Here's another illustration of what happens when we turn basic school functions over to private companies in the name of saving money.

CINTAS, Florence School District 1’s document reduction service provider, inadvertently shredded the records of some 300 students at South Florence High School. The records belonged to rising ninth-graders, the students who will be transitioning from Southside Middle to South Florence High School in the fall, according to a press release issued by the district Thursday afternoon.

Florence 1 officials have telephoned parents of the rising South Florence freshmen and notified them that the records of the students are being retrieved through the school district’s web-based student information system known as PowerSchool, according to the release. Officials also said they intend to work with the local S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control office over the summer to retrieve birth certificates and immunization records of the students affected.

Since when have we been turning over birth certificates and immunization records to private companies? Does this not violate the public trust? Is there no law prohibiting the sharing of personal information of this sort with corporate entities?

Furthermore, how does a uniform and laundry company get into the document-shredding business? Unless there are two corporate entities using the same strange name, CINTAS is an Ohio-based company -- again an out-of-state business interest profiting from South Carolina's public education system -- involved in the "design and manufacturing of corporate identity uniform programs, entrance mats, restroom supplies, promotional products, first aid and safety products, fire protection services and document management services."

A company that makes workshirts, doormats and restroom supplies shredded the permanent records of Florence County eighth-graders. So much for the protection of personal information, and so much for "permanent" records.

“Our goal is to ensure parents that we will retrieve the student data as quickly as we can,” interim superintendent Dr. Allie E. Brooks Jr. said in the release. “We are also fortunate to have access to PowerSchool, which maintains the majority of the information which was contained in the permanent records.”

Brooks said the district will implement a plan of action with data reduction systems in the future to ensure the inadvertent shredding of documents won’t occur again.

Perhaps the first paragraph of that plan should read:
Florence School District 1 will adopt policies to ensure that documents containing the personal information of students, their parents and guardians, including but not restricted to birth certificates and immunization records, will be handled by Florence School District 1 personnel only, on the premises of Florence School District 1 property only, under such circumstances that will guarantee the safe handling, management and security of these documents and the information they contain. Under no circumstances will individuals not directly employed by Florence School District 1 be authorized or allowed to view or manage such documents.

See how easy that is?

Parents: Do you know if your school district hires private companies to maintain your student's permanent records? How does it make you feel to wonder about that?

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