CONCORD -- A password-protected laptop computer containing current and former employees' confidential information was stolen Dec. 1 from the Mt. Diablo district office, officials have confirmed.

"The stolen computer contained files that included names, dates of birth, addresses, and Social Security numbers for employees and former employees," according to a statement released Friday by General Counsel Greg Rolen. "No financial or bank account information was involved."

The thief broke a window and stole computer equipment, Concord police Lt. David Hughes wrote in an email to this newspaper.

"The scene was processed for latent fingerprints and the case is still under investigation," he wrote.

Sgt. Jeff Krieger said Friday that police are not releasing any more details about the case and all questions should be directed to the district.

The confidential information contained on the computer was not encrypted or protected. It included data on employees who worked at the district between 1998 and 2010. Superintendent Steven Lawrence sent a letter to 15,927 affected people informing them of the theft and inviting them to sign up for an identity theft protection service free for one year.

A similar letter will be sent to 2,200 people who worked in the Berkeley school district between 2003 and 2004.

Lawrence's Dec. 18 letter stated that the confidentiality of information maintained by the district is "critically important" and that the district takes great efforts to protect it.

"We have no reason to believe that the computer was stolen for the information on it or that the information on it has been improperly used in any way," the superintendent wrote.

To prevent such an incident from happening again, the superintendent wrote that the district had implemented several measures to minimize the use of confidential data in district reports and forms, unless legally required. Rolen's statement said the district also planned to install encryption on computers that contain sensitive information.

"We apologize for the concern and inconvenience this situation may cause you," he wrote.

The letter included a phone number for more information, which connects callers to a dedicated center hired by the district to respond to inquiries. Although Rolen's statement advised employees who do not receive letters by Friday to visit the district's website for more information, there was no notice about the incident on the site that afternoon.

Board President Cheryl Hansen said Rolen is responsible for responding to questions due to possible litigation as a result of the incident. Both Hansen and trustee Brian Lawrence said the board intends to review the district's electronic and physical security to ensure that it is taking as many precautions as possible in light of the burglary and the recent shooting at an elementary school in Connecticut.

"One of the things I'm going to be asking for as a board is that we review the entire security protocol for the district and look for ways to improve it," Lawrence said.

Hansen said she hoped district staff would bring a report to the board in January on security measures, including the installation of "Columbine locks" that can be locked from inside classrooms with a key. Now some classroom doors can only be locked with a key from the outside. She also suggested the district could work more closely with local police departments to increase patrols around schools.

"I would absolutely say we should assess our security and fencing and gates," she said. "And, do we need more adults present on the campus? And can we afford to do it?"

MORE INFORMATION
Those affected by the security breach are asked to call Mt. Diablo school district General Counsel Greg Rolen at 925-682-8000 ext. 4001.
For additional details about the burglary, read the On Assignment blog at http://www.ibabuzz.com/onassignment.