Sensitive student records found in dumpster outside Denver middle school

Dumpster

DENVER — In Park Hill … the new Smiley Middle School Campus is getting ready for classes to begin, but amid all the cleaning up, someone threw out boxes of student records with all types of personal information, including birth certificates, which were supposed to be stored.

When FOX31 Denver showed up Monday morning at the school, Principal Kurt Dennis was out back doing some dumpster diving himself, checking to see what records were inside the roll-off dumpster.

“We think some of our volunteers somehow mixed up the records with boxes of trash and dumped them in the garbage,” said Kurt Dennis. “We safeguard all student information but somehow a mistake occurred.”

A late-afternoon e-mail read like this: “We appreciate you bringing this serious incident to our attention. We have determined that several boxes of records from Smiley Middle School were mistakenly discarded. We believe all of the records have been recovered, and they will be properly stored. We do not have reason to believe that any additional student records were discarded. We believe the mistake occurred as items in the building were being moved to prepare for the first day of school, and the individual involved in discarding the boxes was not aware that the boxes contained student records. We are investigating the matter and will respond appropriately to those findings.”

It went on, “DPS has strict guidelines on how schools are to store student records and when student records are to be properly destroyed (shredded typically). We will ensure all student records at the campus are properly stored or destroyed. Thank you again for bringing this matter to our attention. The schools will be alerting families today.”

Here’s the email to parents:

Dear Smiley families,

I am reaching out to inform you that it was brought to our attention that several boxes containing some Smiley Middle School student records were unintentionally discarded into a trash bin on Smiley property. The records were quickly recovered, and we do not believe that any records have been lost. However, this is a serious mistake, and I want to stress that our schools take the privacy of our students and student information very seriously. We are investigating the matter, and we will respond appropriately to those findings. We are also reinforcing with all staff the appropriate procedures for storing and, where appropriate, disposing of student records.

DPS has strict guidelines on how schools are to store student records and when student records are to be properly destroyed. We are looking into this situation, and we will ensure all Smiley Middle School student records are safely stored or appropriately shredded, based on the content of the records.

If you have any questions about this incident, please contact the Family and Community Engagement Department at 720-423-3054.

We can only tell you parents at the school for registration Monday were more than upset about the records being tossed, but as you can see … DPS says an investigation is under way to find out what happened… to make sure it doesn’t happen again.