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Boston Public Schools' vendor loses flash drive with data on 21,000 students; ID badges to be redesigned

Posted by Matt Rocheleau  August 13, 2013 10:17 AM

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A vendor contracted by the Boston Public School system to print student identification badges lost a flash drive with basic data for more than 21,000 middle and high school students, prompting the school system to redesign the badges to prevent the lost data from being misused, officials said.

The lost drive did not contain student addresses, phone numbers, social security numbers or birthdates, city school officials said in a statement this week.

And, none of the information stored on the lost drive can be used by an unauthorized person to access student records or log-in to any electronic systems. The city school system said it requires additional validation – such as a parents’ name, birthdate or address – before releasing student information.

The flash drive contained .pdf image files that are used to print 21,054 OneCard ID badges for students across 36 schools that span grades 6 through 12, officials said. Elementary schools, K-8 schools and stand-alone middle schools were not affected.

Each OneCard stores a student’s name, school, age, grade, ID number, Boston Public Library card number, MBTA CharlieCard number, officials said. About two-thirds of the cards also have a photo.

School staff scan the badges every morning to track attendance.

On Friday afternoon, Northborough-based vendor Plastic Card Systems picked up a box of blank OneCards along with the flash drive, city school officials said. The company later reported the drive had been lost.

Searches were done Friday night and over the weekend, but the lost drive was not found.

A new design has been created for the OneCards to prevent the images from the lost drive from being reused. The city school system said it will change the CharlieCard number assignments so the MBTA information on the lost drive will no longer be valid.

New library card numbers will be issued for library card accounts that had not already been activated, officials said. Accounts that already were activated have a PIN code preventing misuse.

School officials said affected families will be notified through automated, multilingual phone calls and mailed letters. But, families do not need to take any action.

New OneCards will be issued to students on time at the start of the upcoming school year.

“Plastic Card Systems deeply regrets the unfortunate accidental loss of the Boston Public Schools student data files and we understand how families will be upset, as we are upset, by the situation,” said a statement from the company’s president, Don Axline. “We will make all efforts to help Boston Public Schools in addressing this situation and will assist in any way possible to quickly rectify the situation.”

Families with questions can call 617-635-9046 during normal business hours. A fact-sheet issued by the city school system can be downloaded here.

“The loss of any student data by a vendor is a serious breach of protocol and we want to be sure our families know exactly what happened and what we are doing about it,” Boston Schools interim Superintendent John McDonough said in a statement.

“We take information security extremely seriously and want to be transparent about the immediate steps we are taking to limit any impact on families due to the vendor’s loss of this drive,” he added.

The lost flash drive contained badge information for students in these schools:

  • Another Course to College

  • Boston Adult Technical Academy

  • Boston Arts Academy

  • Boston Community Leadership Academy

  • Boston Day and Evening Academy

  • Boston Green Academy

  • Boston International

  • Boston Latin Academy

  • Boston Latin School

  • Brighton High School

  • Burke High School

  • Charlestown High School

  • Community Academy

  • Community Academy of Science and Health

  • Dearborn School

  • Dorchester Academy

  • East Boston High School

  • English High School

  • Excel High School

  • Fenway High School

  • Horace Mann School

  • Greater Egleston High School

  • Kennedy Health Careers Academy

  • Lyon High School

  • Madison Park High School

  • Margarita Muñiz Academy

  • McKinley Preparatory High School

  • McKinley South End Academy

  • Newcomers Academy

  • New Mission High School

  • O’Bryant School for Math and Science

  • Quincy Upper School

  • TechBoston Academy

  • Snowden International High School

  • Urban Science Academy

  • West Roxbury Academy

E-mail Matt Rocheleau at
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