Data Mining Concerns Letter to My BOE

To: Public Hearing on Data Mining and Concerns over Student Privacy Committee Members,



CC To: gov.cuomo@chamber.state.ny.usSpeaker@assembly.state.ny.usskelos@nysenate.govjdklein@senate.state.ny.usflanagan@nysenate.govgball@nysenate.govcarlucci@nysenate.govgipson@nysenate.govgriffo@nysenate.govscousins@senate.state.ny.uslatimer@nysenate.govlarkin@senate.state.ny.usNolan@assembly.state.ny.usRegentTisch@mail.nysed.govRegentBottar@mail.nysed.govRegentBennett@mail.nysed.govRegentDawson@mail.nysed.govRegentChapey@mail.nysed.govRegentPhillips@mail.nysed.govRegenttallon@mail.nysed.go ahyp@assembly.state.ny.usgrafa@assembly.state.ny.uskatzs@assembly.state.ny.usputcoleg@putnamcountyny.comginny.nacerino@putnamcountyny.govrsgusaf@aol.comPutnamCountyExecutive@putnamcountyny.govcontact@PeteHarckham.comkaplowitz@westchesterlegislators.comryan@westchesterlegislators.comsmith@westchesterlegislators.comgelfarb@westchesterlegislators.commyers@westchesterlegislators.comwilliams@westchesterlegislators.comborgia@westchesterlegislators.commarcotte@westchesterlegislators.commaisano@westchesterlegislators.comshimsky@westchesterlegislators.comspreckman@westchesterlegislators


Dear Distinguished Committee Members, Elected Officials and Board of Regents:


As a parent with a child(ren) in a New York State public school district,  I am joining the growing ranks of parents concerned about the safe handling of my child(ren)’s school-related data.


New York is now the ONLY state that is uploading the personal data of all its public school students to the inBloom cloud, including up to 12 years of data – whether districts and/or parents agree to this or not. 


We understand that technology touches all facets of our lives today and can be quite beneficial to the task at hand.  However, we are also aware that with the use of technology comes the potential for abuse, which is why I am writing to you today.  inBloom, the vendor chosen to act as repository for this school data, has admitted that it, quote, cannot guarantee the security of the information stored… or that the information will not be intercepted when it is being transmitted. We are also concerned about the potential for inBloom or software vendors to mine our children’s school-related information for marketing purposes. 


Given the sensitive nature of the data being disclosed – with socio-economic information, test scores, special education and disciplinary records, even teacher assessments of a child’s character in the mix – we believe that more work needs to be done to address the possible negative repercussions of our state’s data policy.  Until these concerns about data security and data mining can be adequately addressed, we respectfully request that New York State reevaluate its commitment to inBloom as its data warehouse vendor.  Of equal importance, as guardians of our children’s safety, we feel we should have the right to “opt out” of sharing our children’s private information if we so choose.  We therefore ask that you include an “opt out” clause into the data collection process.


We ask that you support legislation sponsored by NYS Senator Martins, S.5930 and Assemblywoman Nolan A7872A-2013, and by NYS Senator Robach, S.5932 and Assemblyman O’Donnell A6059A-2013.


Moreover, schools are taking action. On October 30, 2013, Spackenkill BOE convened in an emergency session and then issued a resolution to withdraw from RTT believing it to be in the best interests of the school district and members of its community.   I am a member of the Spackenkill community and the parent of a Kindergartner. I applaud each and every BOE Member and the Superintendent for taking action. I cannot express how much I appreciate the BOE decision to make the sanctity of my child’s PII a priority.


So far Spackenkill, Pleasantville, Lynbrook, Hastings on Hudson, Mount Pleasant, Pocantico Hills, Pelham, Rye Neck and Hyde Park have withdrawn from RTT due to student privacy concerns. Many other districts are following suit. Pearl River and Comsewogue School District have withdrawn from RTT this week. This speaks volumes. 


The BOE  voted to protect student privacy in light of parent/taxpayer concerns over student privacy. Part of that discussion and the reasoning to support it involved taking a stand and making a statement against NYSED for over reaching and, in one BOE Member’s opinion, to push back against perceived “blackmail.” 


I don’t think the BOE has many choices here. NYSED has not been forthcoming with districts and members of its community and is withholding information. The contracts show slight of hand and interpreting them is difficult due to smoke and mirrors. USDE has carved out exceptions in FERPA that undermine the legislative intent.  So, what choice to schools really have? 


NYSED has maintained, in conclusory form, that confidence will be maintained and student privacy is their utmost of concern. However, following the relationships and the language of contracts between the many parties involved in the data share plans, I have found one thing common – that there are more clauses that permit disclosure of PII and sharing of student data without consent then there are provisions to enforce confidentiality and efforts to prevent leaks or unintended disclosure are trivial at best. This is no coincidence, in my opinion. NYSED is putting districts in a most untenable position. There seems to be a lot of underhanded “wordsmithing” going on that NYSED, InBloom and others have not been forthcoming about thereby putting districts and students PII at risk. This utterly unacceptable.


Spackenkill Superintendent Dr Lois Powell has informed me that they will be forwarding their resolution withdrawing from RTT to Albany to be submitted at the public hearing on data mining via request for testimony  – to take a stand against NYSED’s overreaching and due to student privacy concerns. 


NYSED is forcing school districts, BOE Members and Superintendents across the state to make difficult choices. NYSED has put districts, parents and students in the most untenable position of having to choose between exploiting personal information in exchange for empty promises and measly funds. This is NOT acceptable.


Sending the resolution to notify Albany that enough is enough is the right thing to do. I hope other districts who have chosen to withdraw from RTT follow Spackenkill’s lead. I urge this Committee to take this matter seriously. Please take steps to return power to local school boards and implement measures to protect student data and privacy. NYSED has not been listening.


Thank you for your time and attention to this matter. 



Anna Shah



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