Raleigh, N.C. — Data housed on a North Carolina State University computer server that contained private information for about 1,800 school children from Wilson and Richmond counties was mistakenly put online, officials said Tuesday.
The data, which was gathered from 2003 to 2006 as part of a research study on classroom practices, includes names, Social Security numbers and dates of birth for students at Gardners Elementary School in Elm City, Wells Elementary School in Wilson and Ashley Chapel Elementary School in Rockingham, which has since been closed.
The state Department of Public Instruction notified N.C. State on July 25 of the data exposure after receiving a call from a parent of one of the students, officials said.
“As soon as we learned this information was publicly available, we removed it from our servers and contacted Google to ensure removal of any saved copies,” Marc Hoit, N.C. State vice chancellor for information technology, said in a statement. “Our next step was to launch a forensic review of all our servers to make sure there were no other instances of inadvertent data release."
Hoit said there is no evidence that any of the data was used improperly, but N.C. State officials are trying to contact the parents of all students whose data was in the research study so that they can take steps to protect against the possibility of identity theft.
The university sent letters to the parents on Monday. It also set up systems for parents to contact N.C. State officials by phone at 919-515-5912 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
At the time of the research study, a small number of North Carolina school systems still used Social Security numbers as student identification numbers. All public schools statewide now use randomly generated personal identification numbers.