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Volunteers find books, student records in dumpster at Miami Northwestern High

Volunteers taking out the trash at Miami Northwestern Senior High last week discovered a pile of materials that didn’t seem like garbage.

Science books, workbooks, algebra kits, biographies, novels and books on literary greats like William Shakespeare and Edgar Allan Poe. Some materials were still wrapped in cellophane.

Also in the dumpster: manila folders containing student records, including sensitive information like Social Security numbers, health records, grade reports and exceptional student education forms.

Throwing it all out was a “communications lapse,” according to John Schuster, spokesman for Miami-Dade County Public Schools.

“Custodians at the school had been directed to clean out a storage room that contained obsolete materials that have not been on the district’s list of adopted materials, some for several years,” Schuster wrote in an email. “The items were discarded, rather than delivered to the district’s central warehouse or sold to used-book dealers, as outlined in standard procedures.”

There is also a School Board policy to dispose of student records, which are generally sent to a records facility or destroyed; the federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act limits what individual information schools can disclose.

Schuster said much of the materials in the dumpster were workbooks that were several years old.

Photos show reading workbooks, practice manuals for the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test, or FCAT, and other workbooks in the trash bin at the Liberty City school.

“Fortunately, the records and other items were recovered, and can now be dealt with properly. District administrators have been notified and are addressing the matter,” Schuster said.