Sadly the corporate and government establishment has blocked an excellent data protection bill, HB 267, by Rep. Arnold Mooney that was supported by a coalition of organizations as diverse as Alabama Eagle Forum and the Alabama chapter of the ACLU, had 35 co-sponsors and for which both the American Principles Project and Education Liberty Watch were consulted.
Now, the chairwoman of the House Education Committee has authored an invasive data mining bill, HB 125, which establishes a longitudinal database with very few privacy protections. It is backed by the Business and Workforce Councils of Alabama, the type of state level corporate and government groups that have been pushing the inferior, inappropriate, and indoctrinating Common Core Standards; the invasive tests, and career tracking that will be possible with these databases.
Here is a description of the bill and the Alabama Eagle Forum’s concerns as reported by the Alabama Political Reporter:
HB125 would create the Alabama Office of Education and Workforce Statistics. This bill will apply to all public school students and workers leaving public education. Eagle Forum writes, “It will collect private information on individuals, potentially through their entire lives. The purpose of this bill is to collect information on students, and monitor them indefinitely. As the bill states, ‘to create the Alabama Longitudinal Data System to provide for the matching of information about students from early learning through postsecondary education and into employment.’ (pg. 1) The stated goal of the legislation is to, ‘guide decision makers at all levels.’ (pg. 3) No clear basis or need for this mass amount of data collection on private citizens including students is provided. The bill contains only vague promises of confidentially with no actual method of protection or limitation on the data collection power of these new agencies. The bill claims to provide protections but provides none. The protection and the maintenance of confidentiality of collected educational data, including compliance with the Federal Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), and all other relevant state and federal privacy laws, and all relevant state cyber security policies, (pg. 5).”
Eagle Forum wrote, “There are currently no State or Federal laws which apply to this bill in regard to protecting students’ personally identifiable information such as name, social security number, or family information. Even if all the information collected were dis-aggregate (meaning not on-its-own enough to identify an individual) it is still dangerous. Dis-aggregate information becomes personal information once you have just a few data points. Eagle Forum of Alabama opposes HB125, as it would create two extremely powerful agencies and violate the rights of Alabamians. If the government is going to seek any private information from citizens, they must provide a sound basis or get a warrant.”
If this issue is important to you and you have friends and family in Indiana, you may wish to get in touch with them to urge their Alabama senators to oppose HB 125 right away (session ends May 16th)! Thank you!
A Florida public school teacher was suspended and then resigned after giving the following “White Privilege” survey in Spanish class that asked questions about sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, and disability status:
The US House Education and Workforce Committee recently held a hearing titled “Strengthening Education Research and Privacy Protections to Better Serve Students.” Although there were some great positives such as hearing from a parent from the organization that took down inBloom, The Parent Coalition for Student Privacy, there was an alarmingly pervasive attitude that student data belonged to the government and researchers and that parent concerns about privacy are over blown. What follows is the introduction, a summary of the pros and cons from the hearing, our conclusions and recommendations from our extensively referenced document written by our president, Dr. Karen Effrem – Response to US House Privacy and Research Hearing. A summary of this document is available HERE.
We are grateful that the committee convened the very important recent hearing, “Strengthening Education Research and Privacy Protections to Better Serve Students, and for the opportunity to comment on it. With the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act being 40 years old; the Strengthening Research Through Education Act (SETRA) continuing dossier building via state longitudinal databases; and the expanded efforts to psychologically manipulate and profile our children via social emotional and mindset assessments in standards, curriculum and tests; it is extremely important that these bills be updated. Government data gathering on our innocent children must be very significantly pared back in content and kept to the local level and privacy protections strengthened. It is not just the data security that is an issue, but the type and amount of data that is gathered.
It is wonderful that Rachel Stickland from The Parent Coalition for Student Privacy, an organization that receives no government or special interest funding, founded and composed of parents, which brought down the Bill Gates multi-million dollar inBloom operation, was able to testify. Ms. Stickland did an excellent job given that she was defending herself and parents from three other Big Data witnesses. (See NEGATIVES below).
Some of the questions by members seemed to indicate a good understanding about the dangers of the extensive student data collection taking place and took parental concerns on that topic seriously, particularly Mrs. Foxx, Mr. Thompson, Mr. Brat, and Ms. Bonamici.
Ms. Stickland’s description of the State Longitudinal Data System (SLDS) was excellent and correct, especially the part about the result of this longitudinal data collection resulting in dossiers from birth. This includes genetic data at least in Rhode Island. I would just add that although the funding push for SLDS occurred during the stimulus bill, in a separate provision, in the Race to the Top grants, and in the America COMPETES Act, they were codified in ESRA in 2002 and continue in SETRA, which is why the data transparency language she mentioned is so critical for both SETRA and FERPA. If, as Dr. Hannaway mentioned, it is really true that the data is completely anonymized, this should not be a problem.
This question by Mr. Heck and Ms. Sticklands’s response as reported by Politico:
“He asked whether Common Core has ‘required new depths of data mining’ of students. ‘I’ve heard the same concerns from parents across the country,’ said Rachael Stickland, Parent Coalition for Student Privacy co-founder and co-chairwoman. ‘There’s a lot of new measurements of student achievement that doesn’t necessarily have academic purposes – grit and tenacity and those sorts of things, the sort of emotional factors. There are a lot of parents who are very, very concerned about this.’”
This is not just a concern, but absolute fact, and we applaud her for saying so. There is much evidence that non -academic social emotional teaching is being promoted through Common Core standards which means that there is psychological data gathering happening in the federally mandated mostly Common Core state tests.
NEGATIVES AND MISSED OPPORTUNITIES:
We believe that student privacy and parental consent should always be considered pre-eminent compared to the research desires of the government or private sector, especially in the realm of psychological profiling.
The government has no constitutional, statutory, or moral right to collect data on highly personal and sensitive socioemotional data on our children.
According to data presented to this committee by the Cato Institute several years ago, federal involvement in education has yielded either stagnant or declining academic performance:
The vast majority of federal education programs are unconstitutional because the entire US Department of Education is unconstitutional, meaning that most of these programs should be eliminated with any remaining that can be shown to be effective and constitutional programs being block granted to the states.
Many studies showing the ineffectiveness and or harm of current government education and child social programs and the effectiveness of two parent family structure and other non-government academic and social measures are ignored raising the question of why we need so much research in the first place.
Remove the social emotional research language from Section 132 of SETRA.
Prohibit social emotional data gathering and the use of data for predictive testing in the FERPA reauthorization.
Put in strict data transparency language and update the data security language per the recommendations of technical experts like Dr. Joel Reidenberg or Barmak Nassirian in any FERPA reauthorization.
Require third party software and testing vendors to notify parents of what data is collected on students and how it is used.
Find a way for students whose identity and privacy is compromised to be compensated, not just researchers or private vendors to be penalized.
Close the curriculum and assessment loophole for invasive surveys in PPRA.
Immediately demand that the US Department of Education repair the federal data security failures found in the Inspector General’s recent report and uncovered by the House Oversight Committee.
Strongly consider a moratorium on further federal research until programs already shown to ineffective and harmful are transformed or eliminated and until actually effective measures are actually implemented.
The National Assessment Governing Board (NAGB) is planning to assess non-academic social and emotional “mindsets” like “grit” as well as school climate in next year’s National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). Here is a summary of the many problems with this approach with details available at Mindsets in NAEP – final:
It is unconstitutional – There is NO constitutional, statutory or moral authority for the federal government to conduct psychological research on innocent American school children via what is supposed to be an academic test.
It violates federal statute prohibiting such activity in one or both of two ways.
It goes against several Supreme Court precedents affirming parent’s inherent rights to direct the education and upbringing of their children.
These types of questions are highly subjective as admitted by leading experts and organizations in the fields of education and mental health.
Because of the weak and gutted federal privacy law, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), this very sensitive data can be shared with various agencies of the federal government and third parties and re-disclosed and used for “predictive tests,” which are notoriously subjective and incorrect.
This subjective, allegedly predictive data may then well be used to make life altering decisions for children affecting college entrance, employment, etc.
According to information uncovered at recent US House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearings, the state of data security at the US Department of Education is appallingly bad, so this sensitive data that the government should not have in the first place is not safe from hackers.
It seems that members of Congress and parents’ rights legal firms are starting to get interested in this situation. Please contact your US Senators and members of the US House of Representatives and ask them to oppose this illegal and unconstitutional plan via the power of the purse, especially if they are on the following committees:
Thank you and stay tuned!
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