But the U.S. Department of Education has warned schools not to use students’ Social Security numbers in their databases, urging them instead to create other unique identifiers. Social Security numbers are “the single most misused piece of information by criminals perpetrating identity thefts,”according to a technical brief issued last fall by the National Center for Education Statistics, the research arm of the U.S. Department of Education.
Yet the collection and use of students’ Social Security numbers in K-12 schools remains “widespread,” according to an audit last year by Patrick O’Carroll, the Social Security Administration’s inspector general. His audit found students’ Social Security numbers printed on transcripts, tests and athletic education forms.
One elementary school held a poster contest and required students to write their Social Security numbers on the back of their entries, according to the audit, which said schools were using the numbers “as a matter of convenience.” Since 2005, there have been at least 40 data breaches of confidential student information at K-12 schools, O’Carroll found.
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