Education Framework Blog

Focused on the Future of Education in America

Montana High School Inadvertently Exposes Sensitive Student Information

In what has been termed an “unintentional data breach,” a Montana school district is in hot water today as the nation learns that they inadvertently shared extremely sensitive student information in an email to parents. 

The email, sent to 28 parents, contained highly sensitive academic, medical, disciplinary and criminal information about hundreds of students at Hellgate High School in Missoula, Montana. 

In all, information disclosed included the names of students...

  • in school-based mental health counseling
  • diagnosed with developmental disabilities 
  • involved in family-abuse cases
  • suspended or have been involved in other disciplinary measures 
    • including the nature of their infractions,
      • alcohol and drug use, possession of weapons and thefts.
  • not compliant with immunization requirements 
  • failing classes
The email also included a single page of a performance evaluation for a teacher.

On Monday afternoon, Missoula County Public Schools (MCPS) said in a statement that the cause of the data release remains under investigation. 

"We deeply apologize for any inconvenience or concerns this incident may cause for our students and families," MCPS Superintendent Mark Thane said in the statement. "While this was an unintentional release of information, we understand that the district is ultimately responsible to safeguard student information."

According to parents who received the email, the school contacted them shortly after it was sent and asked them to delete it without reading the attachment.

MCPS on Monday declined to comment on how the assortment of information came to be included in the single file. 

UPDATE: Read Superintendent Mark Thane's response letter here >>