Lawsuit Filed in New York to Halt inBloom Program

By Ben Kamisar — November 13, 2013 2 min read
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By guest blogger Ben Kamisar

Twelve public school parents filed legal action on Wednesday to bar the New York State Education Department from moving forward with a partnership with education technology nonprofit inBloom, in the latest challenge to the organization’s ambitions.

In a restraining order filed with the New York state Supreme Court, the parents argue that the education department’s plan to work with inBloom on hosting data in the “cloud” for use in real-time academic progress reports flouts privacy and parental consent laws.

“Ever since I’ve heard about inBloom Inc. I’ve been unable to rest easy,” Karen Sprowal, one of the plaintiffs, said in a statement released by the New York City education advocacy group Class Size Matters. She added: “Any information that is let loose on the Internet can never be retrieved, and any breach or misuse of this data could harm [my child’s] prospects for life, by impairing his ability to be admitted to college or get a good job.”

Class Size Matters helped brief the lawyers who filed the suit, and one of the organization’s parent members is a plaintiff, said Leonie Haimson, the organization’s executive director.

The state decided to partner with inBloom as part of its EngageNY Data Portal, which aims to provide parents and teachers with real-time data and content personalized for individual students. Currently, all New York schools receiving Race to the Top funding must participate in the portal.

“Secure, efficient and cost-effective services like inBloom help to enable New York teachers to more easily tailor education to the needs, skill levels and learning pace of each student,” said inBloom spokesman Adam Gaber in a statement. “Like New York state, we believe technology will continue to play an increasingly important role in supporting teachers, students and families.”

InBloom’s popularity has taken a hit since the organization relaunched with $100 million in grants from the Carnegie Corporation of New York and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (Education Week receives financial support from the Carnegie Corporation of New York and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation for its coverage of the education marketplace and innovation in education, respectively.). At the company’s relaunch last February, nine states signed up to use inBloom as a partner in their efforts to revamp digital education. But as privacy concerns developed, all but New York and Illinois decided to withdraw from the program.

Last week, the school board in Jefferson County, Colo., voted to end its relationship with inBloom, citing objections from parents.

The New York department of education said that they could not comment on pending litigation.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Digital Education blog.