Confidential information belonging to Hanks High School students might have been compromised after a laptop containing transcripts of every student at the school was stolen.
A Hanks counselor downloaded and saved transcripts of all 1,700 students onto a personal laptop as part of her job, but the laptop and other items were stolen from her home on Feb. 18.
Transcripts contain students’ birth dates, Social Security numbers, home addresses and parents’ or guardians’ names.
“Regrettably, a counselor used extremely poor judgment and took student information home in the form of a PDF file that contained sensitive data, information, that, if compromised could result in identity theft,” Ysleta Independent School District Superintendent Xavier De La Torre said.
The burglary was reported to the El Paso Police Department, which is conducting an investigation, YISD officials said.
De La Torre said it’s likely the thief didn’t know the laptop contains the transcripts, but the district decided to hire Cypher Security of TCG Services for $60,000 to help mitigate the risks of potentially compromised information just in case. All Hanks students have been enrolled in an identity theft protection program called iLOCK360 that includes credit monitoring and monitoring of Social Security numbers.
“If there’s even a 1 percent change of a student’s identity being sold or stolen, we felt we had an obligation to try to insulate students and their families,” De La Torre said.
The identity theft coverage is retroactive to Feb. 18, and will last at least through December for all Hanks students, according to a district news release. De La Torre said underclassmen will be enrolled for longer, until they graduate.
Preliminary identify theft reports show no suspicious activity so far, district officials said.
The counselor whose laptop was stolen is on paid administrative leave while the investigation continues, De La Torre said.
He said district officials have talked with all YISD counselors, principals and other administrators to see whether using a personal device to view student information was common practice.
“Everyone we’ve spoken too has immediately understood that’s just something that you don’t do,” he said. “The risk is too great.”
Student information should only be handled on the clock, on campus and on a district device, he said.
Had the information been downloaded onto a district laptop rather than a personal one, YISD could have accessed the device remotely and erased the student data, district spokeswoman Patricia Ayala said.
Concerned parents, guardians and students with questions can call Hanks High at 434-5005.
Lindsey Anderson may be reached at 546-6345; firstname.lastname@example.org; @l_m_anderson on Twitter.
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