Possible criminal charges against NJ school that accessed and published children’s confidential info

JERSEY CITY, N.J. (PIX11) — The latest local data breach does not involve credit card information, because its victims are far too young to own credit cards.

The sensitive personal information of elementary school students somehow managed to be included in mailings from a New Jersey school to prospective students. The situation is now the subject of a departmental investigation that might become a criminal inquiry.

“It’s concerning, very concerning,” said a mother whose children attend PS 27 Elementary School. It is among a number of elementary schools whose parents received a registration form from the Math Engineering Technology and Science, or METS, Charter School of Jersey City last month. It serves grades 6 through high school, and was trying to recruit new students

The form was apparently not only meant as a recruitment tool to attract dedicated families and talented students to the METS School, it also contained personal information about the children to whom the mailing was sent.

It’s estimated that 600 families received the form in the mail. It contained children’s names, addresses, dates of birth and, in some cases, social security numbers.

According to Dr. Maryann Dickar, the spokesperson for Jersey City Public Schools, the METS Charter School got the information from the Board of Education. The information was supposed to be confidential.

“I don’t think that’s right,” said parent Lamont Wooten, and the board of education of New Jersey’s second largest school system called this a “very serious breach of its security” that is being investigated by the board. That’s not, however, where the case could end.

“If laws were broken, we will notify law enforcement,” said Dickar. She also said that the school board hopes to finish its investigation into the incident by next week. Nobody from METS itself was available for comment.

Meanwhile, children and their families got a lesson they weren’t counting on regarding how vulnerable their personal information can be.

METS School may get a lesson as well, on what can happen when it inappropriately accesses and releases sensitive personal information. The recruitment effort apparently backfired. None of the parents PIX11 spoke with said they trust METS School to properly educate their children, following this incident.

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