US school bus
The US government's education agency has had to admit that data pertaining to 12,000 children and teenagers in Washington DC was recently exposed onlineReuters

Private information relating to 12,000 special needs public school students in Washington DC has been accidentally leaked on to the internet, according to the state's education superintendent.

An internal memo sent by the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) stated that someone in the office had uploaded data pertaining to 12,000 students in Washington DC from all levels including kindergarten (pre-school) through to 12th grade high school to a public Dropbox account folder.

The data related students who were part of the Individualised Education Program, which is a state programme where students with special needs are offered customised education plans, and the information included the students' identification numbers, age, race, school, disabilities and what services each child receives.

"I am deeply disappointed by this situation," Hanseul Kang, the state superintendent of education, wrote in a letter to colleagues on 9 February, which was seen by the Washington Post. "Our families deserve to know that their students' personal information is being kept confidential and secure in the education system."

The superintendent's office says only one person downloaded the document from the Dropbox account and that the person, who was part of a community organisation, verbally agreed to delete the document.

It is not yet known whom was responsible for posting the information to the office's public Dropbox folder but an investigation is now being carried out to determine who was responsible. However, it seems this is not the first time the office has accidentally released sensitive student information.

In March 2015, Buzzfeed filed a Freedom of Information request, and District of Columbia school administrators accidentally sent the website three Microsoft Excel files containing highly sensitive information about students in the Columbia school district.

One file contained names, birth dates, gender, race and ethnicity on more than 80,000 students, as well as two files on disciplinary data detailing which students had been suspended or expelled and why, as well as information on disabled students.

Although the OSSE attempted to redact the information using a feature in Excel that could lock and black out certain data in the files, this method was not fool-proof, and the data could be revealed if the files were saved in a non-Excel format. Buzzfeed agreed not to publish the information in the files.