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Time to be concerned about student privacy issues

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To The Editor:

If you haven’t heard of inBloom, Inc., and the student (and teacher) privacy risks that are being widely discussed across NYS, then it’s time to do some homework. I received a call from an alarmed teacher who asked me what I know about inBloom. As an education blogger, I had written about this issue a few months ago. See: http://thissideofthetable.blogspot.com/2013/04/student-privacy-who-will-get-all.html

Personally identifiable student information for NYS students is now being stored in a data cloud that inBloom is not guaranteeing as secure. NYS is the only Phase I state sharing student data statewide.

What information is inBloom collecting? Student names, grades, test scores, detailed disciplinary and health records, race/ethnicity, economic and disability status. Teachers should also be concerned. Confidential information about them is also being shared – like social security numbers, addresses, and some private personnel information.

“inBloom, Inc. plans to share data, with district consent (not parental consent), with for-profit companies to help them develop and market ‘learning products.’”

School districts have been encouraged to have public forums about this matter in order to “ensure public engagement” and to keep the public well informed – though I haven’t heard of any going on.

Teacher, principal, parent, and community groups are all lobbying the State Education Dept., the Board of Regents, the Assembly, and the Senate to address the student privacy issues inherent in this deal with inBloom, Inc.

The NYS Assembly just passed a student privacy bill (A7872). I called Sen. Flanagan’s office today (631-361-2154) to urge him, as Education Chair to pass this Student Privacy bill in the Senate. His secretary told me there are currently no sponsors in the Senate. Maybe the public can weigh in and call Senator Skelos (518-455-3171) and Senator Klein (718-822-2049) and Sen. Flanagan. It’s also time to find out what your school district is doing.

There will be an upcoming series of articles about student privacy on This Side of the Table (thissideofthetable.blogspot.com).

Ann Martin Carvill

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