NM: Schools take closer look at computer security

It’s nice to see some schools getting the message and being proactive on preventing ID theft or reducing the risk. Reyes Mata reports:

To protect students from becoming part of an identity theft scam, schools in Las Cruces have responded to online security threats by no longer collecting Social Security numbers from students.

“We used to collect Social Security numbers, years ago. We now assign an ID number to a student that is not related to their Social Security number,” said Jo Galván, spokeswoman for Las Cruces Public Schools. “It is not necessary to provide a Social Security number to enroll in our school system. That way there is more protection for a child’s privacy.”

LCPS stopped collecting Social Security numbers from students in 2008 after some special education students and school staff had their private information posted on an unsecured website for several days.

“We took a number of precautions because of that,” said Michael W. Cook, coordinator for communications for LCPS. The district then paid $75,420 for a yearlong credit monitoring system to catch any identify theft attempts stemming from that situation, Cook said. None were encountered, he added.

In 2004 both NMSU and the University of Texas at El Paso stopped the use of student’s Social Security numbers. Neither the Hatch or Gadsden school districts ask for student Social Security numbers.

Read more on Las Cruces Sun-News.

Over the years, there have been a number of bills proposed in Congress that would eliminate the use of Social Security numbers for all but the administration of Social Security benefits. That the U.S. Dept. of Education hasn’t already mandated the elimination of SSN as student identifiers is disappointing, to say the least, particularly in light of their goal of expanding the tracking of students from school to workplace.

It’s time, folks. It’s way past time, actually. If your child’s district is still using and retaining SSN, have you asked them why or started advocating to get rid of SSN in education records in your state?

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