SANTA MARIA – Dozens of federally-funded books and documents containing families’ personal information were thrown in a dumpster at a elementary school and have been cleared out by school officials.
A Santa Maria resident was throwing some trash out before his morning run when he was startled by what he saw inside the dumpsters outside of Miller Elementary.
“I’m puzzled, just wondering why these books are in the trash can,” said Adolfo Lopez of Santa Maria. “That’s taxpayers’ money and I would like to get some answers.”
Dozens of school books, many of them brand new, were thrown out.
There were also boxes filled with personal documents, including applications for free and reduced price meals containing financial information.
“Documents that should have been shredded but they have people’s personal information in it piled in the thrash can for everyone to see,” said Will Smith of the board of directors for the Santa Maria-Benita School District.
Principal Karen Porter said while kids are on break from school crews cleaned out one of the storage rooms that had books dating back to 2003.
She said they may have not realized just what they were throwing out.
“They should not have been there, absolutely not, and so we’re going to do a better job with communicating what’s in boxes, so that this never happens again,” she said.
Some parents said they were shocked to learn what happened.
“It’s a shocker,” said Regina Rivera, whose child attends Miller Elementary. “It’s sad for our students that go to the Santa Maria-Benita School District to have books thrown out when they can be used elsewhere instead of in the garbage.”
“We do not want to toss books, not if they can be used,” Porter said. “Some of the books were very, very old and the instruction is different now than it was then.”
Porter said all personal documents will be shredded and the books will be donated to children and local groups.
The school keeps student documents on file for seven years.