To the Editor:
A sentence in your recent article on data collection and student privacy (“Group’s Model Bill Aims to Protect Privacy of Student Data,” Dec. 11, 2013) seems extraordinarily accurate. The excerpt in question: “Other advocacy groups and industry representatives … praised the efforts as good first steps, but expressed concern over a lack of substantive details, particularly when it comes to placing limits on the noneducational uses of student data by third-party vendors.”
My organization, Restore Oklahoma Public Education, or ROPE, has studied student privacy in conjunction with education “reform” measures for several years now. As a consequence of our research, we have become increasingly alarmed at the amount of data being collected under the auspices of education “reform” and the lack of student privacy accompanying this push.
In early 2012, we approached state Rep. David Brumbaugh, a Republican, to author legislation requiring parental consent for data collected through K-12 public schools. His bill, HB 1989, delivered just that. The parental-consent provision was later stripped, however.
Though we believe it is important for the state to be transparent with parents regarding data-collection practices, we believe our children will neither be protected from the onslaught of cloud-based data mining currently occurring within district schools, nor from the amount of student-level data-sharing presently occurring at the state and federal levels, until parental consent becomes the primary issue.
We find it unfortunate this particular bill has become the touchstone for a model American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC, bill. In our estimation, this bill epitomizes the frustration felt by ordinary citizens—such as those in ROPE—who try to effect governmental change in order to provide protections to their children that the government itself has not upheld.
While we appreciate the efforts of our legislators, until the citizens they serve become the primary voices in legislation such as this, these kinds of bills will protect no one but the entities in power—those from whom we seek protection.
Restore Oklahoma Public Education
A version of this article appeared in the January 08, 2014 edition of Education Week as Privacy Concerns Often Ignored by Reformers