NYC schools ban use of Illuminate Education products after massive data breach

Fatima Fokina

The New York City Department of Education is calling it quits with a software company whose data breach has impacted at least 820,000 public school students.

School principals on Tuesday were asked to cease using any Illuminate Education products and services at the end of this school year, according to a memo obtained by The Post.

The third-party vendor — which offers popular grades, attendance and messaging platforms — is widely used by schools across the five boroughs.

First Deputy Chancellor Dan Weisberg told administrators the DOE had been “investigating and gathering more information to understand how the incident happened and whether we can continue to use Illuminate’s products and services.”

Education officials made the final call to cease using the products based on that investigation, they said.

“We do not take this step lightly because we understand that this is going to create some disruption and challenge for some schools and families,” Weisberg wrote, “and I want to be clear: DOE made this decision after extensive investigation and deliberation, and based on our deep commitment to protecting the privacy of our families and students.” 

Illuminate hackers were able to gain access to students’ names, birthdays, ethnicities and more.
Michael Loccisano/Getty Images

News of a possible privacy breach first broke when three Illuminate products widely used in New York City public schools — Skedula, Pupil Path and IO Classroom — went dark in January.

The public was first made aware of the massive data breach in March, when education sources said schools could continue using the company’s services until the end of the year before re-evaluating its contracts going forward.

Hackers were able to gain access to students’ names, birthdays and ethnicities, as well as their English-learner, disability and free-lunch statuses, sources said at the time.

Students sit at desks with computers.
The DOE is investigating the breach and will decide whether to cease using the products based off the findings.
Angel Chevrestt

Approximately 2 million New York State students had been impacted by the incident as of early May, according to state data — including charter school students.

This spring, the DOE introduced its own alternative to the Illuminate products, and told school leaders it could develop a list of approved vendors with the goal of having those available by early summer, education officials said.

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