An external hard drive containing personal information on as many as 1,234 Prince William County elementary school students has disappeared, prompting investigations by the school system and the police department.
The hardware housed names and addresses of Glenkirk Elementary students, as well as the names of their classroom teachers. It also stored grades students had received and screening information for student services.
“It’s very sad, actually, that somebody would steal something like that,” said Suzanne Obetz, president of the Gainesville school’s parent-teacher organization.
According to school officials, the hard drive was discovered missing on Wednesday. The school system started an investigation and notified the police to determine whether the device was stolen.
A spokesman for the police department declined to comment on Thursday, saying the department was not ready to release information.
Ken Blackstone, spokesman for the school system, said police are treating the hard drive “as something that might have been stolen.”
Blackstone said the hard drive did not vanish from administrative offices, but could not say if it belonged to a classroom. “It was information that an employee had for their job; it wasn’t something somebody shouldn’t have had,” he said.
He was not sure how many of Glenkirk’s 1,234 students were affected, but said that it could be all of them.
The hard drive did not include students’ Social Security numbers.
Principal Lisa Gilkerson planned to notify the parents of students through automated phone messages and a letter, to be posted on the school’s website. The school also decided to make staff available to field calls from concerned parents on Monday and Tuesday.
Obetz said she wasn’t too concerned about the potential security breach. “I am under the impression that it’s being taken care of, and they have a good idea as to where it might be,” she said.
The school system made headlines for another technology glitch this spring, when the American Civil Liberties Union put heat on Prince William schools’ “LGBT” Internet filter that blocked access to websites discussing gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender issues.
School officials tweaked the filter to allow students to access educational websites concerning the topics.
Lisa Gartner | Examiner Staff Writer