The Maine Department of Education is telling school officials that out of concern for students’ privacy, districts should stop sending students’ Social Security numbers to Augusta where they would be compiled in an electronic database.

That sounds like good advice. We only wish that the education officials hadn’t requested the numbers in the first place, putting students’ privacy at risk.

But they did, and the Legislature complied, passing a law that permitted school districts to ask parents for the numbers, so the state could keep track of their achievements.

But only a few weeks into the school year, the security of the system has been called into question.

On Friday, a technology director for a Maine school district reported being able to see Social Security numbers of staff members in other districts.

The department says it fixed that problem, and deleted the student Social Security numbers that had already been collected, putting the system on hold until it can be reviewed by an outside contractor.

We think that they should take it one step further and put off collecting any student Social Security numbers until the Legislature gets back in action, giving lawmakers a chance to repeal the law passed last year.

The security breach shows why it would be a mistake to collect such sensitive student data. Social Security numbers are the key to a wide range of financial information, and there is a potential for misuse anytime they are collected and kept for long periods of time.

This plan has been highly controversial and has been the subject of warnings from the Maine Civil Liberties Union. Several school districts have passed resolutions advising parents not to release the numbers and many are calling on the state to repeal the statute.

Student tracking would be a valuable tool to measure a school district’s success, but keeping Social Security databases is too risky.

Education officials should look for another way to identify and track former students as they move through college and into the workforce.

And lawmakers should end authorization to this program before there is a more serious breach in people’s confidential records.