Reporters Frank Bajak and Heather Hollingsworth, along with Larry Fenn from the data team, set out to show the impact of attacks by ransomware criminals by sleuthing of their own to find documents dumped on the internet and the dark web when schools refused to pay ransoms.   

The confidential files they found describe student sexual assaults, psychiatric hospitalizations, abusive parents — even suicide attempts. Their careful reporting revealed how schools are often unprepared to defend against such attacks and to protect victims after they happen. The reporters reached the families of six Minneapolis students whose sexual assault cases were exposed. Despite the promise of administrators to inform individual victims, all six said nobody had alerted them before they were contacted by the AP team.  

To preserve the anonymity of sources, the team illustrated the story with a photo by Abbie Parr that artfully protected a parent’s identity. And Peter Hamlin provided illustrations that helped to tell the story.