Hundreds of files bearing the personal information of students from all over the country were left out in the corridors of the Education Ministry recently, a few months after the ministry accused a school in Yehud of severe negligence for failing to secure its students' records.

Cartons were scattered throughout the ministry halls in Jerusalem, filled with files containing thousands of pages of personal inquiries, medical information, psychological and didactic examinations, grades, recommendation letters, reports from truant officers and more, a ministry official said.

The official said other ministry workers were shocked by the situation, especially since large numbers of visitors pass through the halls every day.

"It is a serious matter by any measure when such things are unguarded, with information spread out all over the corridors without supervision," he said.

The right to privacy is considered a basic civil right in Israel, and the privacy protection law makes it illegal for a government ministry to provide private information without express permission. The law is particularly strict for minors, and those who are told private information as part of their job are not authorized to make use of such information for any purpose other than fulfilling their job.

The files that were scattered throughout the hallways of the Education Ministry had been prepared for the ministry's highest appeals committees, which discuss matters including appeals of regional committee decisions regarding whether students will be granted various accommodations on tests, including matriculation exams. The national committee also grants various accommodations that lower-level committees are unable to approve.

The files include telephone numbers, addresses and ID numbers of the students seeking accommodation, along with identifying information about their family members and sensitive details about the children's family background and medical records.

Parents are required to sign a waiver of confidentiality as part of the process of applying for accommodations, to allow the committee to receive the results of psychological evaluations and expert recommendations.

Eight months ago, the Yehuda Halevy School in Yehud closed down and students' personal files were left behind. These files also included psychological evaluations, evaluations of parents and other sensitive information. At the time the Education Ministry said this was a case of "severe negligence" and that it would conduct a thorough investigation.

In the present case, in which the ministry's own officials are suspected of leaving the files open to the public, the ministry would say only that the files are currently "in a closed, secure room."