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googmsbattAt the capitol this week, SB819 and HB1873, both of which protect student data privacy, were heard.

The Senate Governmental Accountability and Fiscal Oversight Committee heard SB819, sponsored by Senator Wayne Wallingford on March 5, 2014. This bill contains a section on 4th amendment rights which drew opposition comments from various law enforcement agencies around the state who promised to work with the sponsor to address their concerns. There were no opposition comments presented on the student data privacy section of the bill. Supporting statements were given by Kevin Weigler, Dr. Mary Byrne and myself. Only Senator Lavota spoke basically asking, if SB819 was passed, would this address our concerns with Common Core.  I responded that as long as the state collected data on students and teachers, we would continue to have concerns with the protection of that data, and the well documented desire for significantly more data collection on children was something that most parents wanted to halt. Even the LA Times editorial board agrees that there needs to be some sort of student on-line privacy rules.

The House Downsizing Government Committee heard Representative Casey Guernsey’s HB1873 the next day. That hearing brought more comments, this time from heavy weights representing Google and Microsoft. The Google lobbyist could not even begin to tell the committee what was wrong with the bill. He also added that it was so complex that the committee would probably not be able to understand the whole issue. His read of the bill was that it would eliminate the use of the internet in the classroom and all the “free” Google Apps that his company supplies to schools. It was up to the witnesses present to point out to the committee, under informational testimony, that Google recently admitted in California court documents thatit does data mine student emails for ad-targeting purposes outside of school, even when ad serving in school is turned off, and its controversial consumer privacy policy does apply to Google Apps for Education.”

Google’s lobbyist said that data and its use by today’s technology “bypasses human ability to comprehend.” Perhaps someone with his skills (his technical skill, he said, only went as far as changing batteries in a flashlight) would have trouble comprehending the data collection and meta-analysis done by Google, but clearly some humans in his company comprehend it because they had to write the code to have the machines do it.

Microsoft’s lobbyist stated plainly that nothing in the bill would prevent the use of Windows in the classroom, drawing a line between his company’s approach to providing educational software and Google’s.

The Google representative could not testify whether other states were considering similar legislation, yet he intimated that 1873’s language seemed to have been coordinated on a national  level. This CBS news story from Maine confirms that other states are considering similar bills and seeing the same titans face off.

Jill Carter of Granby MO testified about a Technology Usage Agreement given to her son for her signature. A casual read of the document seemed to indicate that a parent had to give permission for a child to use technology (computer, email, internet etc.) in the classroom.

“No student will be given access to the district’s technology resources until the district receives User Agreements signed by the student and the student’s parent/guardian. Students who are 18 or who are otherwise able to enter into an enforceable contract may sign the User Agreement without additional signatures”

However, upon discovering that her son was in fact using the school’s computers even though she had refused to sign the TUA, she investigated the whole Usage agreement which also stated:

“Students who do not have a User Agreement on file with the district may be granted permission to use the district’s technology resources by the superintendent or designee

So basically, parents have no ability to control their child’s access to technology or the internet in classroom. The school’s designee can always trump the parent’s wishes. This is bad enough. Then she read the language at the bottom of the policy:

“A user does not have a legal expectation of privacy in the user’s electronic communications or other activities involving the district’s technology resources including, but not limited to, voice mail, telecommunications, e-mail and access to the intranet, Internet or network drives. By using the district’s network and technology resources, all users consent to having their electronic communications and all other use monitored by the district.”

A school board member from another district also testified that she discovered this same language in her own district’s technology usage policy. No surprise. The language has been copyrighted to the Missouri School Board Association and is widely used by districts all over the state. Check your district’s policy. It’s probably the same.

The problem really comes down to a matter of trust. Do parents trust their school district to be responsible in interpreting and implementing these policies? Parents across this state and others are answering that question with a resounding “no” these days as schools blithely stomp all over parental rights. Is it any wonder then why we are going to the state to provide us some protection?

 

Anne Gassel

Anne has been writing on MEW since 2012 and has been a citizen lobbyist on Common Core since 2013. Some day she would like to see a national Hippocratic oath for educators “I will remember that there is an art to teaching as well as science, and that warmth, sympathy and understanding are sometimes more important than policy or what the data say. My first priority is to do no harm to the children entrusted to my temporary care.”

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