Concerns about Student Data Mining in Nevada Schools
A Reno parent and former public school teacher, says the recent Facebook privacy issues pale in comparison to the risk facing our school kids.
A Reno parent and former public school teacher, says the recent Facebook privacy issues pale in comparison to the risk facing our school kids. He says with schools using so many online platforms to track a student's records, it puts them at risk for data breaches and may compromise their online safety.
Nevada's school districts use a web-based program called 'Infinite Campus' to track and share student records. John Eppolito, President of Protect Nevada Children, says, "A lot of parents really like it because you can keep track of kids' assignments."
The problem, Eppolito says, is a lack of transparency about how widespread the sharing of sensitive information like health and behavioral records, actually is, and what is done with it.
He says the internet is forever, and worries about possible effects from this stored data, on students down the road. Eppolito adds, "Especially for the kids that get in trouble a lot at school, because it's really heavy on discipline."
Eppolito says online platforms are an especially dangerous place to store these records, because of the possibility of hacking or data breaches. Speaking specifically about one popular education software program, he said, "The profiles that 'Edmodo' is creating on our kids are much more in-depth than what Facebook had. All that stuff that's in there, parents don't really see it and it's never deleted."
Last year, 77 million accounts on that program were compromised, nationwide. Eppolito told us he asked the Washoe County School District to notify parents of students who use Edmodo, but says they never did.
'Protect Nevada Children' is a group of more than 800 people advocating against data mining of students. They're also concerned that information could be sold to third-party vendors.
The group says they haven't gotten much reassurance from the school districts. Eppolito explains, "They have said they do everything they can to protect the data; what they didn't do--is what nobody does--is guarantee that it will be safe."
Eppolito says, with the state storing and sharing this student data, he fears what impact that could have on them in the future. What he wants right now are answers, "Why is the data on Infinite Campus kept forever and how is it going to affect our kids?"
We reached out to WCSD to talk to us about Eppolito and Protect Nevada Children's concerns. Nobody was available to talk to us today, due to spring break, but the district told us we may be able to get some answers, Thursday.
UPDATE: WCSD issued these responses, via email, Thursday:
1) Why is this infinite campus information saved forever?
The Public Records Act, NRS 239. 125, provides that the Administrator of the Nevada State Library and Archives shall approve minimum periods of retention for records of local governments. This Records Retention Schedule was approved and adopted by the Administrator of the Nevada State Library and Archives and is intended for use by all local governments in Nevada, as defined in NRS 239.121 (3). The retention periods within the schedule were reviewed for compliance with current federal and state laws and regulations at the time of adoption. This manual incorporates many important changes and supersedes previous versions. Consult this schedule before disposing of any official records.
Listed in the schedule are guidelines for public schools that must be followed at a minimum. The minimum for keeping a student’s cumulative educational records is until 6 years after the student has been projected to graduate from high school. Because regular education students can attend high school through their 21st birth year and special education students can attend high school through their 22nd birth year, the Washoe County School District maintains educational records until the student’s 29th birth year. This allows us to delete records based on the birth year and not the actual birth date ensuring records are not destroyed prior to the legal requirement for keeping them. We often receive requests for copies of transcripts from prior students. Thus a student’s permanent educational record must be kept permanently and cannot be destroyed so that we can reissue documents to prior students if requested.
2) Do we know what potential effects this saved info could have on the kid later on in life?
The potential effects are positive for our former students if we have data. Currently WCSD has electronic student records dating back to 1998. The reason that we keep the records is so that we can investigate a student’s course and/or grade history if they claim to have graduated but there is no graduate transcript available for them. This was extremely beneficial when the Nevada Department of Education released direction to the districts to allow students who had not passed the High School Proficiency Exam to obtain a standard diploma. This required investigating student records for hundreds of students who applied for a diploma, some going back as far as 1982. If the student claimed to have received a Certificate of Attendance but no record recorded for the student and they attended in 1998 or after we are able to look up their educational records to determine if they met the requirements. Records cannot be separated, meaning that if you keep the electronic course and grade data, all the data is kept for the student such as attendance and transportation.
If you'd like to learn more about Protect Nevada Children, click here.