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Handle with care

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By The Staff

We don't know who did it, and it's possible we never will. Regardless, we hope it doesn't happen again, and neither do local school officials.

Last week, someone unloaded a pile of old school files into a recycling bin at the City of Lebanon's recycling center on Woodlawn Avenue. Normally, this would be a good thing. Recycling is something more of us should do more often.

In this case, however, some of the recycled documents included sensitive student information - names, addresses, phone numbers and social security numbers. Other documents identified students in need of Communicare services and various types of therapy. One document was a request for information from a psychiatric alternative school, and another was an email that identified a student who had a recurring problem with lice.

We realize that school officials would have a reason to have all of these documents, and we also realize that it is necessary to clean out the filing cabinets from time to time.

Looking at the few documents that we saw (and there were many more), we realize some of them were harmless, such as old school bus route information and a copy of a school wellness policy. But many of the documents were more personal, identifying students who may have some personal issues and as mentioned before, documents with names, addresses, phone numbers and social security numbers. While all of the documents we saw appeared to be at least a year or two old, that doesn't mean the information on them has gone out of date.

To their credit, Marion County school officials took the matter seriously as soon as they learned about the documents. 

Superintendent Donald Smith, Assistant Superintendent Taylora Schlosser, Transportation Director Scott Spalding, Glasscock Elementary School Principal Lee Ann Divine and Annette Dennison, a guidance counselor at GES, went to the recycling center Monday afternoon. The bin with the remaining documents was removed and later burned.

Divine explained that her school encourages teachers to recycle, but the school also has a shredder for sensitive documents. It appears someone mistakenly put those documents in the recycling box instead. Divine added that she would put signs next to the recycling boxes to remind faculty and staff what documents should not be placed in those boxes.

We are glad to report that school officials addressed the situation as soon as they were aware of it, and we're positive that they share our hope in that this was a one-time incident that will not be repeated.

We also hope this is a reminder to everyone who deals with these kinds of records that they should be disposed of carefully. It only takes one person with the wrong intentions to turn this into a real problem.