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OREM — Orem leaders are explaining how personal information from Alpine School District parents ended up posted on a page accessed from the city's website, which has led to upset parents demanding answers and questioning the scope of a GRAMA request made by the city.
The information was leaked last Thursday on a transparency page about a feasibility study the city council voted to conduct in February.
Aerwyn Whitlock, a parent of three Alpine School District children, explained that she visited the webpage after someone reached out to her and told her they could see her personal information as part of the GRAMA request results the city posted online.
"My friend called me and said, 'Hey, your email is out there, your phone number, your husband's phone number and email,'" she recounted. "They just published everything. Like everything, with live links."
Whitlock described how she found her contact information, along with info from other parents in the district and even some outside the district.
"I was floored, really, I was absolutely floored," Whitlock said. "Like, that was the most irresponsible thing I could think of."
Many of the emails and conversations Whitlock remembered reading through had nothing to do with the feasibility study.
She said she also found her son's name and information for other children.
"For a city to not only grab it but then publish it just seems way beyond the pale, like such an egregious breach of trust and privacy. I can't even describe what I'm feeling about it," Whitlock expressed.
Orem Mayor Dave Young explained the GRAMA request was filed by a city attorney to the Alpine School District, with a long list of questions written by Discovery Education Consultants — the organization in charge of the feasibility study.
The feasibility study is looking at whether Orem should break off from Alpine and form its own school district.
In its post online, Orem states, "You will also note that we have not requested personal information relating to student names or other identifying information."
Young said the city specifically told the school district that confidential or protected information was not being requested by the city, and that the information provided would be placed on the city's transparency page.
Young said they posted GRAMA questions and answers on that transparency portal June 9, as promised to citizens.
That evening, they were notified about the records containing confidential information.
"We just put out what we received. Once we were notified there was confidential information, that's where we took it down," Young said. "And then essentially, we reached out to Alpine. We let them know there was this confidential information, and we worked out with them that they wanted to take that information back."
He said there were thousands of pages being submitted on the GRAMA requests, and he believes the release of the confidential information was inadvertent.
The reason Whitlock's information was publicly shared came down to three parts of one section of the request where Orem asks for "all records, including emails sent by ASD or received by ASD (@alpinedistrict.org) that include the email address (redacted by KSL)@gmail.com from January 1, 2022, to present."
The request asks for records related to three separate, private citizen email addresses, and lists the private addresses in the request.
Whitlock indicates her information and that of countless others was part of more than a thousand pages of emails, including mass emails and email chains, involving those three addresses.
She explained she volunteers with one person, the second is the parent of a child who was in one of her children's classes last year, and the third serves on the same committee as Whitlock.
Those three citizens, she indicated, have spoken out against the feasibility study.
"The scope of that GRAMA request for a private citizen astonishes me. There is no possible purpose for that kind of depth of information for a parent, for a feasibility study for Orem," Whitlock said.
Young said the consultants requested that information.
"Those people were in the community putting out a lot of information out on social media and in meetings, and making a number of claims," Young said. "And so, my understanding is that we just wanted a backup of where they were getting that information."
The Alpine School District released this statement Monday afternoon:
"As a governmental entity, Alpine School District provides information through Government Records Access & Management Act (GRAMA) requests. Through a good faith effort, the district provided Orem City with the requested information, most of which is already available to the public through alpineschools.org."
Young said the Alpine School District will now go through that portion of the request, redact and clean up what they need to, and send it back.