Peggy Daly Masternak, a long time homeschool activist recently sent along an article, Public school students’ data available to anybody from the Toledo Blade by By IGNAZIO MESSINA/
It starts out by saying that:
If your children are in a public school, their names, addresses, phone numbers, and grade levels are all on a list.
And unless you say so, anybody not just the military can get a copy.
A review of those who have asked for a copy of the Toledo Public Schools’ student database, either in its entirety or only for certain neighborhoods, finds charter school companies, for-profit tutoring services, the Catholic Diocese, out-of-town law firms, and at least two community activists.
Farther down it reads:
But the same law says, “Schools may disclose, without consent, directory information such as a student’s name, address, telephone number, date and place of birth, honors and awards, and dates of attendance. However, schools must tell parents and eligible students about directory information and allow parents and eligible students a reasonable amount of time to request that the school not disclose directory information about them.”
The people and companies that have requested TPS student lists during the last two years include:
- U.S. Army Recruiting station, 4925 Jackman Rd. and 530 South Reynolds Rd.
- Navy Recruiting District Ohio in Columbus.
- Toledo Catholic Diocese.
- Lagrange Village Council.
- Alliance Academy of Toledo charter school, 1501 Monroe St.
- Star Academy charter school, 3700 Dorr St.
- McDonaldald’s, 1520 Cherry St.
- OPOK Inc., an Indiana-based company.
- St. Vincent Mercy Medical Center Positive Choices program.
- University of Toledo’s Upward Bound youth program.
- Scholars for the 21st Century, a local for-profit tutoring company.
- Twila Page, African-American Parents Association.
- Nicola, Gudbranson & Cooper LLC, a law firm in Cleveland, in May requested the 2006-07 student list along with the date and place of birth for all students. A lawyer for the firm could not be reached for comment.
- Melvin Baker, who was listed as the contact for the Scholars for the 21st Century on its written public records request, refused to answer questions about his Oct. 1 request for the names, addresses, and phone numbers of all students at Nathan Hale and Lincoln elementary schools and Samuel M. Jones at Gunckel Park Middle School.
- Kathy White, principal of Blessed Sacrament Catholic School on Castlewood Drive, said she requested the names and addresses of children at Longfellow Elementary so she could send them letters marketing the parochial school.
Peggy Daly-Masternak, a resident of West Toledo who is co-chairman of the Student and Family Rights and Privacy Committee, said public school districts violate state law by releasing directory information to for-profit companies.
According to the Ohio Revised Code: “No person shall release, or permit access to, the directory information concerning any students attending a public school to any person or group for use in a profit-making plan or activity.”
Some might feel this does not affect homeschoolers, but I know that when the for-profit charters were targeting us in the state of Ohio, more than one district superintendent said they felt they had to release homeschool contact information to these companies.
The question of the day seems to be how do we live in this world of technology without having our privacy compromised? With so many reports of data being accidentally lost, is it any wonder that we want to avoid the growing trend for data gathering? The U.K.’s Carlotta at Dare to Know has a link to a Children’s Database Petition to abandon plans to create a children’s database (aka: Information Sharing Index and ContactPoint). Seems like we should be doing that and then some here in the U.S. where there are far too many bits of proposed legislation that pop up at the THOMAS site for the word/phrase search for “student data.”
Here are some resources regarding privacy and data gathering:
Homeschooling Perspectives on Privacy Issues by Larry and Susan Kaseman was published in the March-April 1995 issue of Home Education Magazine.
Concerns about protecting privacy are increasing, especially because computer technology is making possible the storage and dissemination of so much data about ordinary people, not just the rich and famous. As homeschoolers, we are in a unique position. Our homeschooling gives us a special label and visibility in many databases. Some “educational technology” being marketed to homeschoolers threatens privacy. But at the same time, our unique perspective on society allows us to clearly see and readily question some of the developments that are taking place whose problems may not be as readily apparent to others.
This column will consider some privacy issues from a homeschooling perspective and suggest actions that homeschoolers may decide to take.
We can minimize the information that public officials have about our homeschools by refusing to participate in surveys that are not required by statute and by getting out of data bases or ensuring that the information about our families is “locked” so that it cannot be distributed. We can minimize the damage that is done by information the government already has by obtaining records from time our children spent in public school before we began homeschooling and by using open records laws to find out what information the government has. When we do these things, we confirm for ourselves and show others that we have responsibility for our homeschools and are living up to that responsibility.
Be aware that if your homeschooled child DOES participate in courses at the public school through the homeschool public school access law (full text of law), then he or she WILL become part of the state database of all public school students, called “MEDMS” (Maine Education Data Management System).
This database is extensive, computerized, and contains all kinds of (somewhat personal plus some demographic) information about the child, including assessment information. Each child is given a unique identifier, so that even if the child moves to another state and then moves back to Maine, the electronic records can be retrieved and continued once they move back.
MEDMS allows and requires schools to enter assessment data, a victims of the safe and drug-free schools law as well as student and staff offenders.
Posted by Mary