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Officials Investigate Student Info Leak 

click to enlarge Pinkney-Eppes

Pinkney-Eppes

A Richmond School Board member who released confidential student files to a mental health services provider has retained a lawyer.

The board learned of the breach of 20 students' information last week, after the provider emailed the school district asking for the password to access them.

Tichi Pinkney-Eppes, the 9th District representative who leaked the data, says she was attempting to help one student when she accidentally released the names of 19 more. She called the board's decision to name her as the person responsible "political sensationalism."

Parents of the students are being notified, and an investigation is under way to establish how far the damage goes.

"It's very, very sensitive stuff," 2nd District Representative Kim Gray says. "If it wasn't an intentional act, it brings into question her ability to serve."

The federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act guarantees that student records will remain private unless parents authorize their disclosure. The Department of Education didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

Pinkney-Eppes won't say whether she had permission to release the one student's information to the provider. Other board members say she visited the provider's office with a laptop containing the information in question.

"I would be violating this process if I said anything to it," Pinkney-Eppes says. "I would hope none of my colleagues would attempt to give updates because that would further be violating students' privacy."

Pinkney-Eppes referred questions to her lawyer, Alex Taylor, who said he wasn't sure whether she had received permission from the first student's family.

"We're just hopeful that we can move forward and resolve this issue by continuing to keep private the information that we have regarding the students," Taylor says.

School Board Vice Chairman Kristen Larson says the board will consider censuring Pinkney-Eppes. "The security system worked the way it should," Larson says, "but we can't control human behavior."

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