Johnson City Press Monday, December 22, 2014

Nathan Baker

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nbaker@johnsoncitypress.com
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Social Security gaffe a $12,000 mistake

February 17th, 2014 9:16 pm by Nathan Baker

Social Security gaffe a $12,000 mistake

A mix-up at Johnson City’s Woodland Elementary School could cost the city’s insurance as much as $12,480 to provide identity protection to students whose Social Security numbers may have been sent home to the wrong families.

Johnson City Schools’ Supervisor of Instruction and Communication Debra Bentley said Monday that all 120 students in six classes at the school will be offered one-year subscriptions to LifeLock’s services, although only six guardians reported receiving the wrong emergency contact cards for their students two weeks ago.

Bentley said some of the cards containing students’ identifying information, including Social Security numbers, were inadvertently put into the wrong students’ folders and sent home for approval.

Because of the potential for identity theft using the sensitive data, the district contracted with LifeLock through Johnson City’s Risk Management Office to protect the students.

The protection will cost $104 per student, which includes one year of identity monitoring for the child and an adult, which is required by the company.

The services will be offered for free to all students in the six classrooms affected by the mix-up, Bentley said, but the parents are responsible for creating the accounts for their children.

The cost of the contract, potentially $12,480 if every parent signs up with his or her child, will be paid by the city’s insurance through the Tennessee Municipal League, a cooperative organization of cities created to provide collective aid and advice.

“That’s the worst-case scenario,” Bentley said. “We by no means think it will be that much based on the reports we’ve had from parents, but to be safe, we have to blanket those classrooms totally.”

Parents in those classrooms will receive information from the school district later this week explaining the procedure for signing up for the service, Bentley said.

Guardians will need to have both students’ and their own Social Security numbers handy to sign up.

In a blanket letter sent to parents of students in the six classes the day after the incorrect cards went home, Superintendent Richard Bales asked them to notify the school if they received the wrong cards.

He also apologized for the mistake and promised the district would “assume financial responsibility for any future harm.”

After the incident, Bentley said the principals of all the schools in the district were reminded of the sensitivity of students’ identifying information and briefed on the system’s policies governing the proper handling of that information.

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