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Sunday, December 8, 2013

Update on our lawsuit vs. NYSED uploading any MORE personal student data to inBloom, and yet more evidence of the blatant disregard the state has for our children's privacy

UPDATE: the arguments in court are now going to occur on Jan. 10, and NYSED says barring a court order they will not delay uploading names etc. beyond Jan. 22.

On January 3 in Albany, the NY State Supreme court will hear arguments concerning our  lawsuit asking for an immediate injunction to block Commissioner King and the Regents from uploading any more student personal data to the inBloom cloud.  

The original date of December 6 was postponed because our attorneys amended the brief, pointing out even more ways in which the NY State Education Department has violated the state's Personal Privacy Protection Law.  The amended petition is here.  The supplemental memo of law is here.  (You can also check out the original Article 78 petition  and the memo of law.)

Because of this, the state asked for more time to reply, and will serve its opposition papers on December 18.  Our attorneys have until noon on December 30 to file reply papers.  Our attorneys  tried to get a later date for reply in view of the intervening holidays, but SED would not agree to put off uploading student names beyond January 15th.

Sadly, we now have more evidence that much personal student data has already been uploaded to the inBloom cloud: first, last December,  to help with inBloom’s “infrastructure development”, according to the state, and again in July, for the data dashboard “road shows.”  

Why the state couldn’t use dummy data to help inBloom (or really Wireless Generation/NewsCorp) develop its system or to allow the dashboard companies to sell their wares, instead of  providing student unique ID numbers along with an abundance of other sensitive information that could be seen by anyone visiting these "roadshows", I have no idea.  The state's irresponsible decision to provide this data to help these companies develop their commercial products provides yet more evidence of how little respect state education officials have for our children’s safety and privacy.

The blatant disregard exhibited by our state education officials is immense, especially given how New York is last state remaining out of the nine states that inBloom originally claimed as its "partners."  This includes Louisiana, Georgia, Delaware, Kentucky, North Carolina, Massachusetts, Colorado and Illinois -- all of whom have pulled out of inBloom or put their data-sharing plans on indefinite hold because of the protests from parents.

Shortly after my trip to Chicago, Illinois officials decided inBloom was too controversial, and that they would create an entirely separate student data system and allow inBloom data-sharing to be completely voluntary on the part of districts.  Even those 35 districts receiving Race to the Top funds would not be required to share any data if they chose to withdraw from the project. Almost immediately, Chicago announced it would pull out of inBloom and it is likely all the other 34 RTTT districts in the state will follow soon.  Even before that, however, Illinois state officials said they would bar districts from disclosing any student health or disciplinary data, given the extreme sensitivity of this information.

Yet state education officials here in New York are doing the opposite.  Not only does Commissioner King insist on providing to inBloom the personal data of every public and charter school student in the state, even after districts have strenuously objected and returned their RTTT funds, he also continues to insist that he will share student disciplinary data (including how many days they had in-school or out of school suspensions) and detailed health records (including their disabilities and 504 diagnoses and accommodations.) 

Up to now, this highly sensitive data has been very closely held at the school and district level, as Mary-Fox Alter, Superintendent of Pleasantville, pointed out at a recent meeting of the Westchester-Putnam School Board Association.  As quoted in in LoHud News, Superintendent Alter said that “A child is better protected in the criminal justice system than in this,” given the strict rules of confidentiality required restricting access to criminal records of minors.  

 At the Westchester/Putnam school board meeting, I also pointed out that even if this information is not breached or abused, the data dashboards required by NYSED will offer at the touch of a fingertip all of a child's disabilities, academic and disciplinary records going far back in time, and that this is likely to create negative stereotypes in the minds of their teachers.  There is much research showing that teacher preconceptions often become self-fulfilling prophecies –with especially damaging results for those children who once struggled academically or had behavior problems.  

Despite the strong objections expressed by many  school board members and Superintendents at the meeting, Ken Wagner, the NYSED representative, was unable to offer any convincing rationale for the educational usefulness of this data-sharing plan that made it worth all the serious and potentially life-altering risks it poses for New York’s children. 


ed notes online said...

Where do the unions stand on this issue? NYSUT, UFT, Etc?

Anonymous said...

Thank you. Is there any way we can find out if our children's info has been uploaded?

Anonymous said...

I have two children in NYC schools. I am very much against their data being given out to any third party vendor. Let me know if you need more support.

Anonymous said...

Is this lawsuit for the WHOLE state or only NYC? It should be for everyone.