South Kingstown investigating how political mailers were sent directly to students

South County

SOUTH KINGSTOWN, R.I. (WPRI) ─ A political mailer that was sent to several South Kingstown students earlier this week is causing quite the stir.

The mailers, which were sent by the Rhode Island AFL-CIO, support an $85 million school infrastructure bond and were directly addressed to South Kingstown students.

The South Kingstown Town Council has called upon the town solicitor to investigate the mailers and how the labor union got ahold of students’ names and addresses.

“It’s not the YMCA recruiting for summer camp,” Councilor Deborah Bergner said. “It’s people trying to market and influence an election.”

In a letter to parents, the attorney representing South Kingstown Public Schools said the district’s rules allow the sharing of so-called “directory information,” and parents have the choice whether to opt out.

But some parents tell 12 News they’ve never heard of this rule, let alone the option to opt out.

“I don’t know when my child’s information was sent,” said Paula Bradley, whose child received one of the mailers. “I don’t know what was sent.”

The school district explained that, even though sharing directory information is legal, they don’t have a request for it from the labor union.

“The school department either provided it or had a data breach,” Bergner said.

Superintendent Linda Savastano issued a statement regarding the mailers Monday, apologizing for the incident.

“I will recommend to the school committee that they review these policies as soon as possible,” she said. “Please know we do not take this lightly.”

Emily Cummiskey, the chair of the South Kingstown School Committee, said all four of her children received the mailer.

“The school committee is taking the issue very seriously, as is the town council,” she said.

Cummiskey said they’re actively looking into the mailers and cooperating with the town solicitor’s investigation.

“We are also reviewing our policies that have been in place for a long time and looking at our procedures about how we can address these concerns going forward,” she explained.

12 News reached out to AFL-CIO regarding the mailers but hasn’t yet heard back.

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