Archives for category: Privacy and Privacy Rights

Here is a surprising combination. State officials today announced that Eva Moskowitz and her charter chain were guilty of violating the state privacy law regarding a student with special needs.

Tomorrow, Eva will participate in a panel about meeting the social and emotional needs of students.

Today:

On Thu, May 14, 2020, 10:41 AM Leonie Haimson wrote:
For immediate release: May 14, 2020
More information: Fatima Geidi, fatimageidi@gmail.com (646) 281-0449
Leonie Haimson, leoniehaimson@gmail.com; 917-435-9329

Eva Moskowitz and Success Academy found guilty of violating NY State student privacy Law

The Chief Privacy Officer of the NY State Education Department issued a ruling on Tuesday May 12 that Eva Moskowitz and Success Academy had violated Education Law 2d, the state student privacy law, that prohibits the disclosure of personal student information without parental consent except under specific conditions required to provide a student’s education.

In 2015 and thereafter, Success Academy officials published exaggerated details from the education records of Fatima Geidi’s son when he was attending Upper West Success Academy, and shared them with reporters nationwide. They did this under Eva Moskowitz’ direction to retaliate against Ms. Geidi and her son, when they were interviewed on the PBS News Hour in 2015, about his repeated suspensions and the abusive treatment he suffered at the hands of school staff from first through third grade.

Ms. Geidi filed a student privacy complaint to the State Education Department in June of last year. In response to her complaint, Success Academy attorneys made a number of claims, including that the statute of limitations had lapsed, that charter schools were not subject to Education Law 2D, and that school officials have a First Amendment right to speak out about her child’s behavior. All those claims were dismissed in the decision released yesterday by the NYSED Chief Privacy Officer, Temitope Akinyemi.

The State Education Department has now ordered Success Academy to take a number of affirmative steps, including that administrators, staff and teachers must receive annual training in data privacy, security and the federal and state laws on student privacy, that they must develop a data privacy and security policy to be submitted to the State Education Department no later than July 1, 2020, and that after that policy is approved, it must be posted on the charter school’s website and notice be provided to all officers and employees.

As Fatima Geidi said, “I am happy that my son’s rights to privacy and hopefully all students at Success Academy from now on will be protected, and that Eva Moskowitz will be forced to stop using threats of disclosure as a weapon against any parent who dares speak out about the ways in which their children have been abused by her schools. However, I am disappointed that the Chief Privacy Officer did not order Ms. Moskowitz to take out the section of her memoirs, The Education of Eva Moskowitz, that allegedly describes the behavior of my son. I plan to ask my attorney to send a letter to Harper Collins, the book’s publishers, demanding that they delete that section of the book both because it contains lies and has now been found to violate both state and federal privacy law. If they refuse, we will then go to the Attorney General’s office for relief.”

Last year, the US Department of Education also found Ms. Moskowitz and Success Academy guilty of violating FERPA, the federal student privacy law. The official FERPA findings letter to Ms. Moskowitz is here. Yet Ms. Moskowitz launched an appeal of that ruling on similar First Amendment grounds, with the help of Jay Lefkowitz of Kirkland and Ellis to represent her in the appeal. Lefkowitz is the same attorney who negotiated a reduced sentence for Jeffrey Epstein, the notorious child sex abuser, in a controversial plea deal in Palm Beach County in 2007. Though Ms. Geidi has repeatedly asked the U.S. Department of Education about the outcome of this appeal, she has heard nothing in response.

As Leonie Haimson, co-chair of the Parent Coalition for Student Privacy, pointed out: “Fatima’s son is not the only child whose privacy has been violated by Success Academy. Last year, Success shared details from the private education files of Lisa Vasquez’ daughter with reporters from Chalkbeat without her consent, after Ms. Vasquez spoke about how her daughter had been unfairly treated at Success Academy Prospect Heights. The SUNY Charter Institute also noted unspecified violations of FERPA by SAC Cobble Hill, SAC Crown Heights, SAC Fort Greene, SAC Harlem 2, and SAC Harlem 5 during site visits, noted in their Renewal reports. The time for Eva Moskowitz to comply with the law and stop violating the privacy of innocent children whose parents dare to reveal her schools’ cruel policies has long passed.”

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As for tomorrow’s panel, here it is:

WEBINAR Tomorrow! Social & emotional supports for students during Covid19

REGISTER https://mailchi.mp/fordhaminstitute.org/webinar-may-15th-social-emotional-supports-for-students-during-covid-381810?e=87fac149e2

With the coronavirus outbreak disrupting nearly every aspect of our work and learning, educators nationwide have been scrambling to provide remote instruction to their students. But what are they and their schools doing to provide children with social and emotional supports during this tough time? And how do their strategies compare across the private, charter, and traditional public school sectors?

In partnership with the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL), we will hold a moderated conversation with three outstanding school leaders, all of whom are working hard to attend to their pupils’ (and staff’s) social and emotional needs, while keeping academics moving forward.

Featured Speakers

Michael J. Petrilli, President, Thomas B. Fordham Institute (moderator)

Juan Cabrera, Superintendent, El Paso ISD, Texas

Eva Moskowitz, CEO, Success Academy Schools

Kathleen Porter-Magee, Superintendent, Partnership for Inner-City Education

Schedule

1:00 p.m.: Introduction to CASEL CARES

1:05 p.m.: Introductory remarks by Michael Petrilli

1:10 p.m.: Moderator Q & A (45 minutes)*

1:55 p.m.: Closing remarks Michael Petrilli and sign off by CASEL

Education Week published an insightful article about the dangers to student privacy during this time when students are relying on tech products to connect to teachers. Read it in full if you have a subscription.

https://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2020/03/26/massive-shift-to-remote-learning-prompts-big.html

Massive Shift to Remote Learning Prompts Big Data Privacy Concerns

By Mark Lieberman

Schools are confronting a wide range of potential problems around student data privacy as they scramble to put technology tools for virtual instruction in place during extended school building shutdowns.

Teachers have already begun connecting with students using a variety of digital tools, some of which are new to them and their schools and weren’t designed for classroom use—everything from videoconferencing apps like Zoom to digital devices like Chromebooks and learning platforms like Babbel and BrainPop.

An unprecedented number of online interactions between teachers and students from their respective homes introduce new privacy questions that lack easy answers. And at least one state’s governor, aiming to speed up implementation of new remote learning tools, has temporarily waived legal requirements for agreements between school districts and technology companies that typically include student data privacy provisions.

The challenges for schools in staying abreast of privacy concerns have become acute as companies have begun offering temporary free subscriptions to their expensive tech products, said Antonio Romayor Jr., chief technology officer for El Centro Elementary School District in California.

Some teachers in his district have begun bypassing the typical vetting procedures for new tech products by adding the free products directly to their single sign-on platforms for students and teachers to use, he said.

Some of those free products could eventually cost schools and parents money, which means anyone using them should be extra careful about offering credit-card information when signing up, Romayor said. Programs that aren’t vetted in advance also might run afoul of privacy policy. “It’s a constant struggle,” he said.

While the new technological landscape for schools feels unprecedented in many ways, schools still have an obligation to inform parents of how their students’ data is being used, even if the teaching is occurring outside school buildings. Federal laws—such as the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) and the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA)—should help guide school leaders in deciding what new technologies to use.

“The rules, the regulations apply whether the student is actually in the classroom physically or is at home being taught through a distance learning framework,” said Linnette Attai, president of the for-profit education company PlayWell and a close observer of student privacy issues.

Student privacy experts are recommending that school districts take a deliberate, rather than frenetic, approach to adopting new technologies, and guard against overinvesting in new tools before being fully aware of how they work and how they could jeopardize students’ data privacy.

Cheri Kiesecker, co-chair of the Parent Coalition for Data Privacy, wants parents and schools to minimize as much as possible the amount of student data that’s being collected and sold by tech companies. She felt the same before the COVID-19 outbreak.

In fact, Kiesecker points to a 2018 warning from the FBI noting that the consequences of ed-tech companies collecting too much data on students “could result in social engineering, bullying, tracking, identity theft, or other means for targeting children.” Most U.S. states earned a “C” or lower grade from a 2019 survey of student data privacy protections by Kiesecker’s organization and the Network for Public Education.

As schools rush to put remote learning programs in places, Kiesecker argues that those student data privacy problems could get significantly worse. And that could have long-term consequences for many students. “Data is actually your identity and a form of social currency,” she said.

Statement on New High-Tech School Security Projects

Approved Through Smart Schools Bond Act

For Immediate Release: February 26, 2020

Media contact: Ben Schaefer, bschaefer@nyclu.org, 212-607-3372

NEW YORK, N.Y. – Today Governor Andrew Cuomo announced the approval of $111 million for 133 new Smart Schools Bond Act, including $51.5 million for high-tech security projects like the facial recognition system currently running in the Lockport City School District.

In response, the New York Civil Liberties Union released the following statement from Director of the Education Policy Center, Johanna Miller:

“The amount of funding for high-tech security projects approved today is greater than the amount for classroom tech, pre-k classrooms, and school connectivity projects combined. State funding could be used to transform the education and experiences of students, but instead we’re seeing this money diverted toward invasive surveillance systems that don’t work and make students feel like criminals in school. In the Lockport City School District alone $3 million was used to buy a facial recognition program – at the cost of $550 a student.

The Smart Schools Bond Act lacks the oversight and transparency it needs to improve schools. The state shouldn’t approve any additional applications for high tech security projects until it creates appropriate protections for student privacy.”

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Oklahoma has just experienced a fraud involving an online charter school called EPIC, which was accused of collecting money for ghost students and billing for excessive administrative overhead. It’s amazing how many of the big scandals in charter land involve the highly profitable online charters.

Now parents in Oklahoma are outraged that a new virtual charter obtained the names and addresses of their children. The charter is aligned to the Gulen movement.

State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister has promised get to the bottom of this breach of student privacy.

The surveillance state is bearing down on us, our children, our grandchildren, all of us.

Audrey Watters is watching.

There is money in this business.

Leonie Haimson, executive director of Class Size Matters and co-founder of the national Parent Coalition for Student Privacy (and a member of the board of the Network for Public Education) writes here about the threat to student privacy in New York.

The New York Board of Regents is currently considering whether to approve a radical weakening of the state student privacy law, which would allow the College Board, the ACT and other companies that contract with schools or districts to administer tests to use the personal student information they collect for marketing purposes — even though the original New York law that was passed in 2014 explicitly barred the sale or commercial use of this data.

Starting in 2014, many states, including New York, approved legislation to strengthen the protection of student privacy, because of a growing realization on the part of parents that their children’s personal data was being shared by schools and districts with a wide variety of private companies and organizations without their knowledge or consent. The U.S. Department of Education had weakened the federal student privacy law known as FERPA (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act) twice over the past decade, rewriting the regulations during the Bush and Obama administrations to allow for nonconsensual disclosures for different purposes.

At that time, few parents knew that federal law had been altered to allow their children’s information from being passed into private hands. Then controversy erupted over the plans of nine states and districts to share personal student data with a comprehensive databank called inBloom, developed with more than $100 million of funding from the Gates Foundation.

InBloom Inc. was designed to collect a wide variety of personal student data and share it with for-profit vendors to accelerate the development and marketing of the education technology industry to facilitate the adoption of online instruction and assessment. As a result of widespread parental activism and concerns, all nine states and districts that had originally intended to participate in the inBloom data-sharing plan pulled out, and 99 new state student privacy laws were passed across the country between 2014 and 2018.

New York was one of the first to pass a new student privacy law. In March 2014, the state legislature approved Education Laws §2-c and §2-d, which among other things, prohibited the state from sharing student data with inBloom or another comprehensive databank, and also regulated the way schools and vendors must secure student data, including imposing a complete ban on the sale of personal student information or its use for marketing purposes….

Yet to the frustration of many parents and privacy advocates, it would be nearly five years before New York State Education Department drafted any regulations to implement its 2014 student privacy law. In October 2018, the Education Department finally released proposed regulations for public comment. In March 2018, the Parent Coalition for Student Privacy, along with the statewide coalition New York State Allies for Public Education, submitted recommendations on how to strengthen and clarify those regulations, as did more than 240 parents and privacy advocates.

Yet after the initial period of public comment had ended, instead of strengthening the regulations, the state Education Department gutted them, and now proposed allowing student data to be used for commercial purposes as long as there was parental “consent” — a huge loophole that would create the opportunity for districts, schools and vendors to misuse this data in myriad ways.

Do you think it is okay to sell students’ personal data to marketers and vendors?

 

Leonie Haimson warns that New York State is considering changes that would make students’ personal data available to vendors without the knowledge or consent of their parents.

https://nycpublicschoolparents.blogspot.com/2019/09/make-your-voices-heard-urge-nysed-not.html

She writes:

“The New York Board of Regents is currently considering whether to approve a radical weakening of the state student privacy law, which would allow the College Board, the ACT and other companies that contract with schools or districts to use the personal student information they collect for marketing purposes – even though the original New York law that was passed in 2014 explicitly barred the sale or commercial use of this data.

“Parents and all others who care about protecting children’s privacy should send in their comments to the state now, by clicking here or sending their view to REGCOMMENTS@nysed.gov. Deadline for public comment is Sept. 16. More on this below.”

Open her post to learn more about privacy laws and why they must be strengthened, not weakened, to protect students.

People can comment to NYSED here: https://actionnetwork.org/letters/please-contact-state-officials-now-not-to-weaken-student-privacy?source=direct_link&

Chalkbeat reports that a parent has filed a federal complaint against Success Academy for releasing her daughter’s records to the media.

A former Success Academy parent filed a federal privacy complaint Thursday claiming the charter network violated her daughter’s rights by releasing her education records to a reporter, including notes from psychologists and her special education learning plan.

The complaint — which is unlikely to result in consequences for Success — comes in response to a Chalkbeat story published Saturday about Jazmiah Vasquez, a seven-year-old student with autism who has not been in school for a year and a half.

Lisa Vasquez, the student’s mother, claimed that Success Academy Prospect Heights, the last school Jazmiah attended, effectively pushed her out by repeatedly calling home about behavioral issues, threatening to call child services, and sending her back to kindergarten after she started first grade.

In response to questions from Chalkbeat about those allegations, Success officials provided detailed records of Jazmiah’s time at the city’s largest charter network, including contemporaneous notes from multiple educators and psychologists, progress reports, and a copy of Jazmiah’s individualized education program, a document that lays out students’ special education needs and services….

Success officials defended their disclosure of student records on the grounds that parents implicitly waive their rights if they go public with their complaints about a school.

An expert quoted in the article disagreed that the parent had waived her rights by filing a complaint and going public. 

Apparently FERPA is toothless since no school has ever been sanctioned by loss of federal funds for violating the privacy rights of students. 

Well, here is a nice development for those of us who object to depersonalized learning. The data analytics firm called Knewton is going out of business. Knewton was acquired by Pearson and was supposed to be the ultimate refinement of data mining.

Peter Greene describes the rise and fall of Knewton here.

The founder and CEO of Knewton was Jose Ferreira, who believed he was bringing Big Data into the classroom. He claimed in a video that with his techniques, his company knew more about students than their parents did. Here is an article from 2013 in which his vision is portrayed as the wave of the future, one of those inevitable phenomena that would envelop us whether we liked it or not.

Here he is, extolling the virtues of data mining. 

Knewton sounded too much like Brave New World to me, and I resented the fact that investors were creating a technology to spy on our children.

Peter Greene writes:

Adaptive learning. Computer-enhanced psychometrics. Personalized learning via computer. Knewton was going to do it all. Now it’s being sold for parts.

Knewton started in 2008, launched by Jose Ferreira. By 2012, Ferreira led the ed tech pack in overpromising that sounded both improbable and creepy. In a Forbes interview piece, Ferreira described Knewton as “what could become the world’s most valuable repository of the ways people learn.” Knewton could make this claim because it “builds its software into online classes that watch students’ every move: scores, speed, accuracy, delays, keystrokes, click-streams and drop-offs.”

Developments like this offer hope that other massive invasions of privacy, which are inherently dehumanizing, will fail. I’m on the side of flawed and fallible human beings. Teachers and parents, not machines.

This report is a 50-state analysis of privacy laws, compiled by the Parent Coalition for Student Privacy. Its leaders are Rachael Strickland of Colorado and Leonie Haimson of New York.

https://networkforpubliceducation.org/the-state-student-privacy-report-card/