Student Privacy Doesn’t Make The Grade

New York State Education Department: Wake up!
New York State Education Department: Wake up!

Remember inBloom? This was to be a giant database of virtually everything about every public school student in America. Backed by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and headquartered in Atlanta, inBloom was billed as a state-of-the-art way to track our children’s progress.
The trouble was, nobody was quite sure if this database was impervious to hackers. And inBloom wasn’t exactly promising that it wouldn’t sell the data to those hawking everything from study guides to ADHD medications.
Nonetheless, among the early believers in this was the New York State Education Department (NYSED), a data-obsessed bureaucracy that believes education is best measured with decimal points.
When the state’s parents got wind of what this would mean, there was an uproar. Letters, calls, petitions, emails, visits to Albany and hearings around the state.
Among those battling inBloom at the grassroots level were two Port Washington moms — Deborah Abramson Brooks and Allison White. Along with others around the state and groups such as New York City’s Class Size Matters (CSM), inBloom was not only was kicked out of New York, but it also closed up shop altogether. Quite an achievement born of outrage.
The state legislature stayed on the student privacy bandwagon long enough to enact further legislation on the topic.
What happened next? Well, I will let Deborah Abramson Brooks take it from here:

Deborah Abramson Brooks (l.) and Allison White with their petition to stop inBloom. With all of the signatures and comments, the document runs nearly 500 pages.
Deborah Abramson Brooks (l.) and Allison White with their petition to stop inBloom. With all of the signatures and comments, the document runs nearly 500 pages.

In late March 2014, our New York State Legislature enacted new student data privacy and protection measures into law. Among other features of the law, two requirements were particularly important in safeguarding student data privacy and protection in New York State.
One was the legal imperative on State Education Commissioner John King to appoint a Chief Privacy Officer. The new legislation delineated specific qualifications required
of the person selected for that position.
The other requirement was for that newly appointed and qualified Chief Privacy Officer to draft a Parents’ Bill of Rights for student data privacy and protection, and for that newly appointed Chief Privacy Officer to elicit and include the input of parents and other stakeholders in that endeavor.
New York State Allies for Public Education (NYSAPE) and Class Size Matters have been monitoring NYSED’s compliance (or lack thereof) with this new law. In response to NYSED’s continued failure to comply with the law, NYSAPE and CSM have written to Commissioner King and the NYS Board of Regents. In this letter, NYSAPE and CSM express concern with NYSED’s failure to properly implement the new student data privacy law, and with NYSED’s serious omissions in the Parents’ Bill of Rights.
These failures and omissions merely reinforce NYSAPE’s, CSM’s and numerous individuals’ lack of confidence in NYSED’s commitment to protect student data and respect parental rights — especially with a new school year underway.
We keep hearing how the state Education Department may have botched the roll-out of the Common Core curriculum, but otherwise they are pretty fabulous. I’m not so sure. As Brooks points out, they also seem to be botching the roll-out of student privacy.

John Owens is editor in chief of Anton Community Newspapers. Email:

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