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Thursday, December 19, 2013

Parents respond to Speaker Silver and Assembly call to halt inBloom

Sheldon Silver, Speaker of the NYS Assembly, has called for an immediate delay in the State Education's plan to share personal student data with inBloom; the press release is here.

"It is our job to protect New York's children. In this case, that means protecting their personally identifiable information from falling into the wrong hands," said Silver. "Until we are confident that this information can remain protected, the plan to share student data with InBloom must be put on hold." 

Fifty Assemblymembers signed a letter to Commissioner King, expressing their continuing concern with the the state's plan: "We do not believe the State Education Department should share this information with inBloom, especially at this time."  Our press release about this latest development and the Assembly letter is below.


For immediate release: December 19, 2013

For information contact: Leonie Haimson: 917-435-9329, leonie@classssizematters.org 
Donald Nesbit: 646-373-0779

 

Parents and Community members thank Speaker Silver and the Assembly

calling for a halt to data-sharing with inBloom and hope that Commissioner King and the Regents will listen



Today, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, Assembly Education chair Cathy Nolan, and forty nine other members of the Assembly expressed their deep concerns about student privacy and asked Commissioner King to immediately suspend his plan to share personal student data with inBloom Inc.  Their press release with a link to the letter is here: http://assembly.state.ny.us/Press/20131219/

Said Leonie Haimson, Executive Director of Class Size Matters, “We deeply thank the Speaker, Assembly Education chair Nolan and the other legislators who signed onto this letter, and all others who have spoken out against this devastating plan.  They have listened to the protests of parents, and the overwhelming consensus that the sharing of children’s personal data with inBloom is an unprecedented violation of student privacy and basic parental rights.  I hope the Commissioner and the Regents listen to the Speaker and our other elected officials, and pull out of inBloom immediately, as they have so far refused to do.”

InBloom is a non-profit corporation, funded with $100 million from the Gates and Carnegie Foundations, with an operating system built by Wireless Generation, a subsidiary of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation.  The data is being uploaded on a cloud run by Amazon.com, despite the fact that most technology professionals do not trust data clouds for their sensitive data.   Last month, NYC parents sued to block the uploading of this data, with arguments to be heard in state court on January 10.  Two bills passed the Assembly last session unanimously that would halt the state from sharing data with inBloom without consent or give parents the right to opt out. 

Last week, Senator John Flanagan, chair of the Senate Education Committee, called for an immediate moratorium for any data-sharing on the part of the State Education Department.  Yet as of yesterday, State Education Department officials said they would not hold off uploading a student names and other personal data past January 22.  

According to Tricia Joyce, chair of the Youth and Education Committee of Community Board 1 in Lower Manhattan, “We all have much for to be grateful to Assembly Speaker Silver. He listens to his constituency and consistently advocates for them, visibly bettering the lives of all of our New York City and State families. InBloom posed an immediate and significant threat to our New York State student’s privacy, and also served as a dangerous precedent in how we handle data of this kind in the internet age.”

Over the course of the last year, eight out of the nine states originally identified as inBloom’s “partners” have severed all ties with the company or put their data-sharing plans on indefinite hold,.  In a recent survey, 75% of elected school board members in New York opposed this plan, and 78% say parents should be allowed to opt out.  More than forty Superintendents have returned federal Race to the Top funds in hope of protecting student privacy, but the Commissioner says he will ignore their wishes and upload their student data to the inBloom cloud anyway. 

Karen Sprowal, a parent with a child in a NYC public school and a plaintiff in the lawsuit to block inBloom, said: “Elected officials from both parties, school board members, parents and educators throughout the state have been appalled at the Commissioner’s plan to share intimate and confidential student data without parental notification or consent with inBloom and for-profit vendors.  This data would include my child’s name, address, phone number, test scores, grades, economic and racial status, any disability or health problem he might have, as well as highly sensitive disciplinary records.  I have been outraged as has every parent I have spoken to about this.  In fact, there is no parent in the world who wants their child’s confidential information uploaded on a data cloud vulnerable to breaches, or disclosed to vendors.  The fact that Commissioner King has continued to ignore the objections of parents and elected officials is an abomination and must end.”

Paul Hovitz, a retired teacher and co-chair of the Community Board 1 Youth and Education Committee commented, “On behalf of our children, parents, and community, I wish to commend Speaker Silver and Assembly Democrats for recognizing the hazards caused by releasing students’ personal statistics into an internet cloud. Their action today in calling for an immediate suspension of this plan is in the best tradition of our elected officials.” 

Donald Nesbit, a parent plaintiff in the lawsuit and Local 372-AFSCME Executive Board Member, concluded: “We pray that the Speaker’s statement will finally pierce the bubble that Commissioner King and the Regents have been inhabiting over more than a year, since the news first broke about their plan to share our student’s personal data with inBloom.  It would be the best holiday present that any parent with a child in the public schools could receive, to learn that the state finally halted this reckless and outrageous plan.  Even though New York would still be the last state to withdraw, better late than never I always say.”

Mona Davids, a parent plaintiff in the lawsuit and President, New York City Parents Union said:  "We are relieved that our legislators are putting our children first and taking action to protect student data. We hope our legislators move quickly and pass legislation requiring parents be respected and given the ability to opt out of any data sharing." 

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