We have all been in the situation where we needed to find an important document or record, spend hours looking for it and come up empty handed. It can be very frustrating, but imagine if you had requested that information from an organization that was legally required to hold it and its response was to shrug its shoulders and say sorry. Now a much larger problem has been created.

This issue recently played out in Darien, Connecticut as the school district is being accused of prematurely destroying student records. An article in the Darien Times did an intense investigation into the problem, which focuses on the special education department.

According to email conversations obtained by the newspaper, teachers asked department heads about retaining work samples, protocols and data sheets for particular students and were told to destroy them after one year, but parents were never notified.

However, according to the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), parents are supposed to be contacted when certain records are discarded. On top of that, many states require special ed documents to be kept for at least six years.

“Darien needs clear rules,” a lawyer representing the parents told the news source. “And, [the school district’s] cavalier shredding is unacceptable, albeit not clearly illegal.”

The Darien school system does not have any concrete record retention policy in place, which is just the tip of the iceberg. Companies and organizations are best protected when they have, and strictly adhere to, a record management program and retention schedule. Many companies elect to partner with a professional record center to outsource the secure storage of their records. These firms can also rely on that partner to provide a robust database and inventory management system that incorporates and helps manage retention schedules.