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CMS Says Release Of Confidential Student Data Was Human Error, Not Hack

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools blames an employee error for the accidental release of confidential data on almost 3,000 students last week.

The district meant to send a welcome letter to the families of students signed up for after-school programs. But 475 of them instead got a spreadsheet detailing names, addresses, phone numbers, payment status and medical information for all students enrolled in those programs.

CMS Communications Director Eve White said Tuesday that when the district learned of the error, staff contacted families asking them to delete the spreadsheet.

"It is important to note that this was not a security breach or hack into a database or system," White's statement said.

The data release violates the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, known as FERPA. White said employees get annual FERPA training, and the district is now reviewing email distribution procedures to avoid similar mistakes.

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Ann Doss Helms has covered education in the Charlotte area for over 20 years, first at The Charlotte Observer and then at WFAE. Reach her at ahelms@wfae.org or 704-926-3859.