Recycled Medical Records Used As Scrap Paper At School

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Detailed medical information discovered on the back of a first-grader’s school drawing sent Minneapolis school officials scrambling.

Jennifer Kane was tidying her dining room when she found the drawing by her daughter, Keely, who goes to Hale Elementary School. On the back of the paper was the name, birth date and detailed medical information for a 24-year-old St. Paul woman named Paula White.

“The more I read it, the more alarmed I became about the amount of information I had about this person,” said Kane.

WCCO-TV located White, who was shown the record.

“It’s got my account number, my birth date, my job,” said White. “I’m outraged. I am embarrassed. I don’t want anyone to know my personal information.”

The paper was being used as scrap paper for an after school program at the elementary school.

After WCCO-TV made a phone call to the school, faculty searched and found more pieces of paper with other people’s personal information. The school is now holding those papers in a secure place.

On White’s medical record, there was a logo of the law firm, Sawicki and Phelps, which she hired after she was in a car accident.

When asked to comment, the law firm first said they had no idea how the school could have gotten the papers. However, Attorney Paul Phelps later told WCCO-TV a paralegal had donated the firm’s old paper to her child’s school — Hale Elementary.

Phelps said the donation was a violation of the firm’s privacy policies.

“It was a mistake,” said Phelps. “The employee did not believe there was any personal information on the papers.”

That’s of little comfort to White, however, who said she feels humiliated.

Now, Hale Elementary is sending out a message to every child in the after school program to check if any other medical records have ended up in students homes, asking students to return those papers.

More from Esme Murphy
  • Rockford

    Maybe if the school was funded at a proper level there would be no need to people to donate paper. C’mon, really? A school is so short of money they need paper?

    • Ken

      When I was in school we brought our own paper…

    • Tom

      Seriously? What is a “proper level”?????? We pay a ton of money in school district taxes but let’s raise ’em some more since the administration and overhead cost soooo much (for such a high quality education) that we have to rely on donated used paper so students can draw – even President Oblabla says our students are a bit behind. What a load of “green” cr*p and baloney.

      • Vivienne

        Your tax money is going to union thugs. Fight for teachers’ unions to be out of the process!

        Administration and “special needs” programs absorb the money too.

        • JX

          #$%@& Union thugs!! Those overpaid rich teachers making their 30K-40K. Probably driving a Kia that’s only 3 years old. And my guess is many have a 2, nay, THREE bedroom apartment!! Living the high life while trying to teach kids.

          • Anathema

            We also attend trainings during the summer, those of us who aren’t working full year round districts. Our health care has been rising up similar to everyone else’s. Those lawyers and MDs are, by your own argument, picking jobs with full knowledge of the pay and working conditions. Also, our hours with the kids are cut in favor of useless meetings, trainings and noneducational activities in the classroom so that we’re constantly behind. We deal with kids who have punched out teachers and have been raised on self-esteem so that just showing up makes them think they should get an A.

            As for these unions? Down here in Texas, the unions don’t do much if anything. And you know what? I don’t mind. I’m staunch conservative. But I get really ripped when I hear people start going off that wanting to teach kids and try to make life a little better for them means that I signed up for abuse and a life of luxury.

        • Sheri

          Special education students are getting the help they need that is mandated by Federal Law, moron.

          • chuck

            Sheir moron-federal law mandates no illegal immigrants(que?). Federal law soon will mandate the same people that brought you the now 5,000,000,000 in the red PO is going to take over “health” care-no union effect there either. Fed law is clearly a matter of opinion and appearance-nothing really binding. Fed law has a few things in there about criminal malfeasance and even on to stuff about foreign nationals sowing dissent, but why split hairs. Move to pelosi’s district and live large-just not in her yard.

            • john

              I’m sorry, do you speak english? I thinkyou should apply for refund of your elementary school tuition. Wait, I paid for it, so I should get the refund, right?

              • Triarch

                Posted 9/16/2003 7:45 AM     Updated 9/16/2003 11:56 AM

                Today’s Top News Stories

                • Report: In U.S., record numbers are plunged into poverty – 2:43 AM
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                • Add RSS feeds 

                U.S. tops the world in school spending but not test scores
                WASHINGTON (AP) — The United States spends more public and private money on education than other major countries, but its performance doesn’t measure up in areas ranging from high-school graduation rates to test scores in math, reading and science, a new report shows.
                “There are countries which don’t get the bang for the bucks, and the U.S. is one of them,” said Barry McGaw, education director for the Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, which produced the annual review of industrialized nations.

                The United States spent $10,240 per student from elementary school through college in 2000, according to the report. The average was $6,361 among more than 25 nations.

                The range stretched from less than $3,000 per student in Turkey, Mexico, the Slovak Republic and Poland to more than $8,000 per student in Denmark, Norway, Austria and Switzerland.

                The report cited Australia, Finland, Ireland, Korea and the United Kingdom as examples of OECD nations that have moderate spending on primary and lower secondary education but high levels of performance by 15-year-olds in key subject areas.

                As for the United States, it finished in the middle of the pack in its 15-year-olds’ performance on math, reading and science in 2000, and its high-school graduation rate was below the international average in 2001 — figures highlighted by Education Secretary Rod Paige.

    • Troy

      If the supers weren’t robbing the districts blind with outrageous salaries, maybe there would be money for paper and pay raises. Where I live the average superintendent salary is over 107 k, the highest being 187 k. Why? Why does a bureaucratic paper pusher need 187 thousand dollars a year?

      • anathema

        Even that isn’t enough for some. Our district superintendent not only had a five thousand dollar account per month for his phone, but he was arrested for bribery and funneling contracts to his friends.

      • chuck

        Because they can. Who writes the code abd by laws, who supplies the union thuggery when needed to push an issue/agenda. Oh wait, MN? Who cares about MN except for libs and mooslims. Enjoy the utopian love fest-Go Walker Go.

    • NY9Solyndra

      “Maybe if the school was funded at a proper level there would be no need to people to donate paper. C’mon, really? A school is so short of money they need paper?”

      We pay more per student than any other country.

      Funding is not the root problem.

      • John

        Not even close to reality. We spend less than all but 5 of the 25 top western countries.

        • Triarch

          Where did you get your data? These statistics claim the exact opposite of your statement.

          • Brett

            per student read before you comment

            • Triarch

              Yes, the US spends more PER STUDENT than any other country, contradicting John’s statement that we spend less.
              Can you clarify the point you are trying to make?

              • John

                Really, you have to read carefully to find out WHAT IS INCLUDED in the per student expenditures, and then you find tat we include 1) multiple layers of admin, 2) a LOT of, shall we say, extraneous expenses charged to the school for district fees, busing etc, and 3) special ed services, NONE OF WHICH ARE INCLUDED in the general run of expenses.

                In fact, there is such disparity among the states, that if it were broken out, we would be both first and last in test scores and expenditures, making the whole thing an excercise in futility.

                • Triarch

                  Okay, so you John know more than anyone publishing these statistics. I still don’t see your point, what you are trying to prove.
                  I pay a lot of property tax to support the pathetic school system we are in. I pay even more to send my kids to a private school. Whatever your reasoning behind the expenditures not being depicted as accurate ( is that what you are trying to say?) I know that on the personal level the public education system is not good enough for my kids and I don’t believe for anyone else’s either. You make your own choices, with whatever reasoning allows you to sleep at night.

    • Vivienne

      Spare me. The teachers’ union is taking all of the money that should be going to the kids’ for instruction, supplies and support materials.

      Eliminate unions in the U.S.A!

      • buzzoff

        It’s medication time . . .

        • Triarch

          What an intelligent, thoughtful reply. Very helpful.

        • chuck

          Sirbuzz-has your town or county been seeing the overwhelming number of average, non glbt/illegal alien type families move to your neck of the woods? MN is known for whack job liberal elites, unions and muslim rights. Kudos. Great way to increase a tax base. Stellar economic plan there buzz. Really, I would prefer to pay a fat rich whiteguy to tell me how to vote and who to protest. Please, I am in a right to work state with extra income-can I just send you guys some of my disposable income because I have guilt over being non union…please take my money, tell me what to think and how to feel and make my kids dumb, please. Nah, never mind, you keep it.

    • Dianne L. Barnett

      Sadly enough, many schools do not receive enough funding these days, but I feel that an alternative would’ve been for them to shred the paper first, and let them use it for paper mache art instead.

    • Blondie

      When did parents stop buying school supplies for their children every September, and as needed after that?

      • Momof3

        Where I live parents don’t even buy their kids lunch – 80% are on the free lunch program. They even provided free lunch through the summer months when kids were not even in school. It’s a sad day when 80% of parents – the majority of which are probably already on food stamps – say they can’t afford to feed their kids llunch. Bet tthey can all afford their cigerrettes.

    • GL Lee


      The private school I send my child to educates kids at a cost of about $4,500 a student. The equivalent government school is spending more than twice that amount. Where does the problem lie? Easy answer… GOVERNMENT. When you deal with government, you get inefficiency, you get unions, you get bureaucracy, you get lifetime taxpayer funded retirement after 25 years. Then you get teachers working 9 months a year and being paid for 12 months of work and their complaints. It’s as if they didn’t know what the job paid with they decided to become teachers.

      You should grow up.

      • chuck

        Well, put. Somebody’s getting a lawfirm for the holidays…hehehehe.

    • Phil Mckracken

      To Rockford, no amount of money is enough – They always need more.

      BTW, that paralegal should be canned. Airhead move.

    • John Andesron

      I attended a ‘good’ public school system. I had 2-3 solid teacher out of the 100 or so I had. Most were lazy and stupid at worst, apathetic at best. My quality of education had almost nothing to do with the amount of supplies we had in the class. Chalkboard and chalk would be fine with a decent teacher. I suspect the experience was similar for others in my age group and demographic. 26, middle class.

    • Jess

      The funding also pays for utilities and other fees that comes with using and caring for a building or buildings. Check into how much your school districts get verses how much they use just on these items. Books and other materials schools buy cost a bunch too, and those prices are set by other markets, not the schools.

      • RJW

        If these public school districts would stop spending hundreds of millions on palatial estate school buildings, maybe they wouldn’t need to pay so much for heating, air conditioning, cleaning, repairing and replacing expensive materials used in the original construction.

    • Uncle

      The more the taxpayers give the more they want… it’s the entitlement mentality everyone has these days.

    • amplitude jones

      no no no- all money collected as property taxes are to go straight to the union! Where are you FROM?

  • I'm Just Sayin'

    the one thing that Jesse Ventura sadi that was spot on was “you can never give enough money to the schools.” No matter how much you give them, it is never enough.

    • amplitude jones

      please do not conjure up that stupid freak!

  • cls

    Have you ever seen a schools paper budget. Most are very high. Some schools try ot limit paper usage, I have even heard of schools that make teachers buy there own paper. It is very common for schools to recycle paper and use the back side to cut down on costs.So this does not surprise me.

    • We need Responsible Parents

      When I went to school (a mere 15 years ago) we had to bring our own paper. I was dirt poor living on welfare yet my grandmother (yes I was raised by my grandmother) always made sure I was prepared for school.

      • smokehouse56

        Kudos to you and your grandmother.

    • Auntie Venom

      As far as medical record mishandling, after dealing with both the medical and legal community here in Minneapolis, I’m not surprised that some of the winners that get hired would mishandle confidential paperwork.

      On the schools budget side, I’ve worked in a Northside MPS and was shocked at the budgeting priorities. There was always money for food at every meeting the school wanted parents to attend. Stuff like Devanni’s, Leann Chin and lots and lots of Pizza Hut. But come March, the paper budget was empty. Still food in April, May and June, but no paper. Gotta buy those parents off with food to get them interested in their child’s education, and make the principal look like Lord/Lady Bountiful. Adds a new spin to the term “tax feeders”.

  • Well

    this is clearly Obama’s fault.

    • NY9Solyndra

      Surely this is Bush’s fault.

      And the Tea Party must be involved somehow.

      And Reagan, Lincoln, and those evil rich white males who owned slaves and founded this country. Blame them ALL!

    • smokehouse56

      No you got that wrong lib, it is Bush’s fault.

    • soupsandwich

      It it a clear image of policy. Go green and give your business away to a White lady, oh, Ms. White sorry-usually you know, typical white lady stuff would apply-to quote Obama talking about granny and all. Systemic-does that grab you? Well? Lots of businesses all kined up outside your town waiting…Well? Lots of Muslims coming to town instead? Well? You know, if you just go ahead and do away with the formalities and institute shariah, you wouldn’t have any of these problems or useless postings for that matter. Unions and Muslims. Hope you ar happy MN-this is how outsiders see you. Swell image to have-you happy Well? Swell, Well. Oh, maybe that admin assist just wanted to give her company to Ms. White for Christmas- hippa mean anything? Well? ADA? All typical liberal/union policy/center of MN dogma, and somebody is going to lose a bidness-to quote Rev Jackson. hahahahahaha.

  • Ambulance Chaser

    Sue the law firm.

    They would be the first in line to sue you if they could.

    • farquar

      Absolutely, the law firms actions are criminal IMHO.

      • sueTHEM

        Absolutely a violation of the lawyer-client confideniality.

        Sue them!

        • TG

          This is ABSOLUTELY criminal, no question about it. It’s in very obvious violation of HIPAA laws.

        • smokehouse56

          Sue them. Sue them. Sue them. That’s all people think about now days. Sue them!

          • soupsandwich

            But smokey, it is a law firm. Who doesn’t want a slightly used law firm for Christmas? Hahahahahaha. They have already moved assets and have their building on the chopping block. Shovel ready… union made…enjoy, the rest of us look at MN as CA central. But not to digress, a lot of sensitive items were found recently in the gutters of Australia too. Not systemic at all, nothing to see here, the professionals are on the scene now. Move along and look for the union label. hahahahaha.

    • kcw

      This is an “open and shut” case as well as a clear violation of the Health Information Portability and Accountability Act which will result in a minimum fine of $25,000. Sue them and report them to HIPAA.

      • Scholar

        “Report them to HIPAA” doesn’t make sense.

        That’s because HIPAA is NOT an agency.

        • systemic

          But a law in which you can own your own law firm when breached by a rookie barely bar qualified…for scribbly scratch paper that your county can’t afford to provide for the children in a district where the teachers make minimum wages in schools that are falling apart with no heat or olympic sized pools. Hahahaha. Look for the union label, look for the union label.

    • Boetica

      Absolutely. Give them a taste of their own medicine.

    • RealLawyer

      Law firms are not “covered entities” under HIPAA (note spelling) so it has no application here. The firm may have liability for something, but HIPAA has nothing to do with it.

  • Angiline

    Every child in my grand daughter’s Kindergarten class was given a list of items required one of which was a ream of paper.

  • JustMe

    This isn’t new. My mother-in-law worked for years as a cafeteria worker in a parochial school and they would regularly seek donations of used paper from local businesses–as long as one side was clean, it was usable. Kids would sometimes use it for art and crafts; other times, staff would use it for mimeographing notes home to parents. When budgets are tight (as they always are in parochial schools), every dime that can be saved matters. But that donated paper needs to be checked for what it contains. Once, my son came home with a reading worksheet to complete and on the back was an ad for a local video store featuring special rates for their “adult” videos. Another time, one of my kids brought home a paper that had the basic athletic record of a former student on it–complete with his social security number, home address and phone, etc. This all took place back in the 90s and one would think that schools that accept donated paper would check it all, with the privacy laws we have now.

  • John

    I don’t think we should push for such a litigious outcome. Yeah, the lawfirm was negligent, but admit that what they did was for a good cause. Recycling is good. Giving materials to schools is good. There was only good intentions here. I hope Ms. White would see that.
    We don’t always need to sue first.

    • Cammie Herborn

      Can you say HIPPA laws? Are you familiar with what they are? If not, educted yourself!

      • The Rage

        That comment has nothing to do with HIPPA laws. The point is the letigous nature serves to curb good will.

        If everytime some accident occur or mistake happens although intentions were good, and they are sued, they will be less likely to have/act on those “good intentions”.

        If your neighbor/friendcame to your house, slipped while using your restroom and then sued you for that, would you invite that neighbor/friend over again?

        • John

          It’s a law office though…I like the irony.

      • Glazi

        See here now: (HIPPA)

      • Triarch

        Can you spell “educate”? Unless you did that on purpose, then it is pretty funny.

      • Pippy Longstocking

        Female HIPPA have killed more people than crocodiles, lions and deer in headlights.

      • Fred

        “educted” yourself? ROFLMAO !!!

    • Robb

      Try using the “good intentions” or “for a good cause” defense when a law firm comes after you for breaking HIPAA laws and “inadvertently” giving out personal information to a third party.

  • Bob

    Someone tries to do something nice by dontaing to a school in need and someone else tries to make something out of nothing. The paper looks like it had the woman’s name, DOB and job on the paper. No, it shouldn’t have been given to the school; it was a mistake. But this reporter shouldn’t make a mountain out of a molehill just to get a story.

    • Cammie Herborn

      HIPPA People…..Wow so many Americans are clueless about their own healthcare.

      • Triarch

        HIPPA is totally over-the-top ridiculous at this point. What is your obsession with it? Ameriica needs to get over the knee jerk lawsuit reactions to everything. It is destroying us on so many levels.

        • Auntie Venom

          Like expecting privacy? Yeah, bet you wouldn’t mind your confidential medical records to fall in to goodness knows who’s hands. Two places I know I expect confidentiality, from my lawyer and my doctor. There are laws protecting confidentiality in place for a reason.

  • Lori

    Sue everyone.

  • Pilot.Dave

    Lwayers are never guilty of breaking the law – just ask Obama, Holder, Clinton, and just about every other one in D.C…..

  • Sue

    That’s absolutely a violation of the lawyer-client confideniality. And that’s a very serious crime.

    They should sue them!

  • Pat

    the law firm did not donate the paper … an employee did and in violation of the firms policies. she should have shredded the paper instead. i get so tired of people commenting without reading the article first!

    • medclaimworker

      Pat. it does not matter, HIPPA law will punish the law firm.

    • Auntie Venom

      Law firms (and every company) should do a better job of vetting an employee before hire, and some sort of employee review after hire; good judgement should be a major criteria for hiring and retention. I’m sure there were red flags a priori and posteriori about this employee who donated confidential paperwork, but there are companies who fear firing an employee, especially an incompetent one who may be lucky enough to belong to a ‘protected class’.

  • Curmudgeon10

    Nothing, of course, either electronic or paper, should stray from a law firm’s offices without being destroyed.

    The “intern” was no doubt a product of the public school system, mesmerized by the green agenda and all the wonderful things it could do for our miserable little blue marble.

  • Southernermom

    That would be the HIPAA Law, not HIPPA. Health Insurance Portablity and Accountability Act.

  • Ed

    Lots of e-lawyers in these comments, apparently. Does the law firm have a duty to supervise its employees? Yes. Is the law firm negligent? Yes.

    But calm down with the “This is a very serious crime! Atty-client confidentiality!” You’re talking about things you don’t understand fully and just throwing these terms around.

    What happened is not a violation of the atty-client privilege, nor is it a serious crime (omg a felony!). The case will settle and be done with.

    • unpurse

      The law firm is on the line for a ton of liability here, Ed. Pooh pooh all you want, if I am damaged due to identity theft as a result of the law firms negligence, I will own them. How about a nice class action? How about who would trust these guys with their personal information in the future? Especially if they share your attitude towards their clients. But go ahead and blow raspberries at us as if we were the ones in the wrong. Have you impressed yourself yet?

      • Auntie Venom

        Actually, it’s pretty tough to get a law firm to represent you in Minnesota unless you can prove actual damages from a specific act. She will have to prove to a lawyer that any damages were caused by this, and not some waitress or cabbie jacking her info. That’s the reality. Sorry to Ms. White this happened to her, hopefully no one else has had paperwork fall into the hands of a child with less scrupulous parents.

        • DanaDee

          It depends on the statute that has been violated. It may be that under HIPAA, damages don’t have to be proven.

  • Capt America

    Hopefully this law firm gets sued out of hesitance.

    • NY9Solyndra

      “sued out of hesitance.”

      Can you elaborate?

  • BACK PAGE NEWS (open to all to post articles) - Page 547

    […] […]

  • Boetica

    What kind of paralegal can’t look at a few of the papers and realize there is confidential information on them? The paralegal should be fired, and YES the law firm should be sued. Apparently they are personal injury ambulance chasers. My bet is that they have sued others for much less negligence.

  • Robert Jones

    Paralegal will be fired
    HIPAA police will notice
    former clients will sue
    Sawicki and Phelps law firm will pay
    America wins since ambulance chasers will be weaker

  • gymrat

    First Phelps lies then finds a fall guy or girl…the paralegal…shameless…surely the chain of custody probably leads right back to good ol’ Phelps…White should file a great big juicy legal malpractice suit against Phelps & pepper it w/ punitive damages for her humiliation, mental anguish…Phelps should then be disbarred for his ineptitude…

  • Negligent HIPAA-cide

    Looks like some lawyers are going to find themselves on the other side of the court.

    I wonder if they’ll defend themselves…

  • Steve Case

    So now the whole internet knows the name and age of one of the victims.

    Zaba search turns up nobody with that name and birth date so maybe the paper really isn’t that crass and did use a fictitious name.

  • Jonathan Silberger

    THIS IS THE FUTURE OF OBAMACARE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!




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