Columbia County student, teacher records possibly compromised

August 21, 2006

Thousands of educators and students in Columbia County may become victims of identity theft.

News 12 has learned personal information was left behind at the old Evans Middle School.

Documents containing social security numbers, addresses, birthdays, and phone numbers were forgotten in the abandoned building, which may have been unlocked for up to a month.

"I would say to anyone wanting to run a headline on this it would read, 'The nightmare in Columbia County,'" says Scott Hudson with WGAC News Talk 580.

And what a nightmare it is for thousands of parents, students, and faculty of Evans Middle School, and school board members as well.

Hudson says a parent left these documents on his desk.

"You've got names, addresses, phone's gold to a criminal," he says.

The parent told Hudson that teenagers playing in the abandoned building found the information before telling her.

"She found her own child's information and social security number and who knows how many thousands of others," Hudson says.

The woman told him the documents were all over the floor in the school, not even boxed up.

Now, Columbia County School Board members like Mike Sleeper are scrambling for answers.

"Right now we're trying to get a better handle on what happened and what is where," Sleeper told News 12.

The old middle school was unlocked. Anyone could have had access to the information.

"We know demolition crews were in there, maintenance crews, real estate agents trying to sell the property, the possibilities are endless," says Hudson.

That includes the possibility that students' credit could be destroyed.

"And no one would think to check the child's credit for years, and by that point the money is gone, credit is ruined, and it's outside of the statute of limitations," Hudson explains. "People without the right ethics getting a hold of this information could wreak havoc."

Superintendent Tommy Price says he personally visited Old Evans Middle School after learning of the situation. While there he did not notice any doors unlocked, but said some windows were out, which may have provided access. Price also said it did look like somebody might have gone through bags holding the information.