Below is a story written by a mom in central Florida about an under-reported and growing problem in public schools. She is sharing this story to bring attention to the lack of control parents have over protecting their children’s privacy in public schools, magnified by the rapid and seemingly uncontrolled deployment of education technologies (EdTech).
Two years ago we discovered our Florida public school district had shared our family’s personal data with a third party private company based in another country. We were shocked our school district had done this without our knowledge or consent. The district refused to allow us to opt out and also emailed that they did not believe the third party private company would remove the student data in their application.
And so began a long journey that revealed the full extent of our public school system’s monopolistic and self-serving behavior. We became increasingly alarmed as we realized the school district:
- Allows for-profit third parties to collect personal data on students.
- Allows a for-profit private company based in another country to write to the school district’s system of record.
- Creates student accounts with third party companies using easily hackable passwords and does not always tell parents the accounts exist.
- Does not tell parents with whom these third parties share student data or whether the data is correct or if vendor software contains security vulnerabilities.
- Has not been able to keep school district employees from posting what is apparently sensitive personal student information on social media and the internet.
- Does not appear to monitor school app use for compliance with COPPA (a federal law).
- Performs health screenings and records results without directly notifying parents.
We were not surprised to read the scary details in an FBI alert that recommended parents discuss with school districts the types of questions we have been asking.
When we formally insisted on a full accounting of data collected and shared on our children, our right under FERPA (another federal law), we were ignored. We asked for this accounting of our student data repeatedly and eventually the school escalated our request to the district, involving the school district attorneys. The unfortunate result of escalation was that our request was ignored and our children were forced, against their will and ours, onto yet another third party technology that collected even more data on our children.
I could get into the details of what has transpired and the poor behavior displayed by the school district but I will stop here and spare you dozens of pages of reading material and a year’s worth of research on the failures of school districts to protect or honor student and family privacy.
We were advised to go to the media or hire an attorney but we were also told an attorney might run us five figures. We wondered: If the school district can hide behind unresponsive tax-payer funded lawyers—where are ours?
-A mom from central Florida