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Morgan apologizes for Net gaffe

April 07, 2004|by TARA REILLY

tarar@herald-mail.com

WASHINGTON COUNTY - Washington County Public Schools Superintendent Elizabeth Morgan apologized Tuesday to the approximately 2,500 school system employees whose Social Security numbers and other private data were posted on the Internet for up to 45 days earlier this year.

Morgan publicly apologized for the mistake at Tuesday night's Board of Education meeting and said she accepts full responsibility for the error.

"We owe our employees an apology," Morgan said. "I am sorry for the inconvenience, anxiety and concern the technical error has caused."

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School staff "inadvertently posted the errant file," and "appropriate personnel action will take place as warranted," Morgan said.

She said school staff will provide individual assistance to any employee with concerns about the matter.

The information was put on the school board's Web site in late January and remained there until about two weeks ago. It was removed as soon as school staff realized it had been posted, Public Information Officer Carol Mowen said.

The school system sent a memo dated March 31 and titled "Potential Website Security Breach" to all employees who receive the school board's insurance coverage, notifying them of the mistake.

Social Security numbers, names, birth dates, hire dates, genders, residential ZIP codes, base salaries, titles and the types of insurance carried by the employees were posted on the site, according to the memo.

The posting on the site included information about employees who receive insurance coverage through the school board.

School officials said the site with the information was visited 23 times, including 20 times by insurance vendors.

The identities of whomever made the other three hits was not known, but school staff is aggressively working to figure it out, Morgan said.

Claude Sasse, president of the Washington County Teachers Association, said after Morgan's apology that the incident was a matter of trust and credibility.

"The message that comes through loud and clear from teachers in this school system is: 'We don't trust you. We don't trust you to tell the truth,'" Sasse told the school board.

Sasse said teachers wanted an apology from school officials, which they received, but they also wanted responses to a list of questions and concerns.

Those concerns include who posted the information and at whose direction and whether the data was available as a public record to anyone who asked for it, Sasse said. They also want a trust fund set up for potential identity fraud victims, he said.

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