Some of the school records that were inadvertently discarded in a dumpster at Le Conte School. Photo: Alicia Abramson

The discovery on Saturday of a stash of school records in a dumpster on the Le Conte Elementary School playground has prompted the Berkeley Unified School District to initiate an investigation into how school documents are stored and discarded.

“We need a clear policy and higher security,” said BUSD Superintendent Bill Huyett.

Berkeleyside revealed on Tuesday that a large number of school records had been left in a dumpster at Le Conte after reader Alicia Abramson got in touch to say she was concerned about the method of their disposal and privacy issues. Abramson discovered the documents on Saturday when she took her kids to play on the school grounds.

Huyett told Berkeleyside that the documents should not have been in the dumpster. He said a clean-up crew at the school had grabbed the wrong boxes and put them in the trash. “It was a custodial mistake. We want to apologize,” he said. “This is not the way we would normally handle this. We take the security of records and privacy seriously.” He added that he was thankful that Berkeleyside had brought this matter to light.

Concerned that the records might be in the dumpster by mistake, Abramson had taken some of them home for safekeeping. A BUSD representative collected them from her a few days later. “We have been able to retrieve the records and they are in a secure location. We want to thank Abramson for saving them. She has been wonderful and this is a service to us,” Huyett said.

He said the district was still looking into the whereabouts of the documents that were left in the dumpster.

Huyett, who has been at the Berkeley district for three years, said he did not realize records were being kept at individual schools. He said the normal practice is to keep records at a central location. He speculated that it might be because of the close community nature of Berkeley that documents are sometimes kept at school locations.

An investigation has now been launched into best practice for records storage, he said. “We have a meeting of Principals today and we will do a survey of how schools keep their records. This incident has turned into a positive opportunity to look at setting new policy.”

Tracey Taylor is co-founder of Berkeleyside and co-founder and editorial director of Cityside, the nonprofit parent to Berkeleyside and The Oaklandside. Before launching Berkeleyside, Tracey wrote for...