I'm warning you, this will be a LONG post, but EVERY PARENT should go through it with a fine tooth comb.
First, I want you to see this VERY SHORT video of Louisiana parent, Brooke Falgout, describing objectionable content in her parish school.
Brooke has apparently received some fallout from this video - parents intimating that what she's describing isn't true because they've never seen anything like this, or their children (who live in the same Parish) haven't told them anything like this, for example. Fine, everyone is entitled to their thoughts on the topic, but I want to ask a few questions:
- How much do you know as a parent/guardian about what actually happens in the classroom?
- Have your kids ever neglected to disclose information to you because a) they were uncomfortable telling you or b) (this is my favorite) they didn't think it was a big deal? I have.
- Do you feel yourself educated enough as a parent to know exactly what you're looking at if you were to see something like Brooke is describing staring you in the face? Translation; do you know what words like "Cyberbullying" really mean in school terms?
- Do you feel yourself educated enough about the change in FERPA laws that allow data to be collected from all across the web - so long as it can be considered a function of 'learning' - that you know exactly where your child's data is going the minute they log on to any computer in the school?
In order to understand what I will say next, you must - sadly - suspend the notion that schools have the best interest of your child at heart. I know that statement is harsh, but, again - sadly - it is reality today - not out of any desire to harm children - but more as a result of several ongoing conditions:
- MANY state and federal mandates put teachers and schools in the unenviable position of intermediary. Many times teachers/administrators are forced to use computer programs or data collection materials in order to get continued funding, or avoid censure of some kind. Many times neither the teachers nor administrators know exactly what the program does or where the input data goes after it's entered. Data collection for the Safe and Healthy Schools Program - and 16 other data collection programs - are mandated by the federal government.
- MANY administrators have developed the idea that buying new and 'better' programs - ironically marketed to them by companies who have developed the programs utilizing student data collection - help run their schools more efficiently while simultaneously creating excitement among parents for the supposed result of the program - school safety for example (do you have to get in your school via a fingerprint/badge?)
- MANY teachers today are entering the classroom having been indoctrinated in the notion that 'data drives learning' (a pile of drivel immediately disproven by the knowledge that America put men on the moon with rudimentary computers programmed by men just decades out of the one room schoolhouse) and therefore have no compunction about sitting a kid down at a computer for hours in a day in the name of 'learning'. These teachers may know the amount of data being collected on that student - or know exactly what's in a video - but believe this data will help her better teach that student, and/or the child needs instruction in cyberbullying or alcoholism or fill-in-the-blank, because he/she's sure the child is not going to get that super important instruction at home.
1. Gaggle2. Blackboard
1. Cyberbullying2. Pornography3. Personal questions her family life including details such as whether or not they were given snacks after school
"provide for educating minors about appropriate online behavior, including interacting with other individuals on social networking websites and in chat rooms and cyberbullying awareness and response"
- What is "appropriate" online behavior? There is no definition. It's arbitrary. So, if your kid isn't liked at school, how easily do you think THIS could get he/she in trouble, ESPECIALLY since schools must monitor student internet use and RESPOND (discipline) to these incidents.
- If kids don't know what 'porn' is, the federal government makes sure the school will have to tell kids what pornography is so they know not to get on to pornographic sites.
- Read these Acts - they are FULL of loopholes that keep the laws from being followed by the schools and libraries anyway, yet internet software developers like EverFi are going to create the need for the software ("Look, you have to have this program if you want your government money") and sell it while unsuspecting administrators (or those with an agenda) will buy them to use on your kids.
- Do you think teachers go through all this stuff and know the ins and outs? I'd be mad if they did because they should be teaching my kid actual subjects and not made up subjects to mire his mind in garbage. How much time is this stuff stealing from actual classroom learning?
- There is another federal program called Safe & Drug Free Schools that collects a great deal of data on students in public schools regarding disciplines, behaviors, etc. These kinds of programs are perfect for populating that database. Once your child is 'identified' as a cyberbully, they will carry that on their permanent record.
"Now, all of our data is in a map, schema, and organization that cross over our entire system for easy integration - today and in the future."
It takes no real imagination to believe that because the program contains an anti-pornography scanner there would be a survey somewhere to capture whether or not students have had access to, or seen, porn. Many of these programs can't be seen from the website. Students must sign on to their accounts at school and that sign on brings with it entirely new access screens. How will you know what your child is seeing under his sign on?
- Parents MUST be notified that minor children will be exposed to this survey as part of the PPRA - Protection of Pupil Rights Amendment. If you are not notified, you have legal recourse.
- This information is simply no one's business but the parent.
- Who's to say teenagers don't get more ideas from this kind of detailed survey than they had before they took the survey - education on sensitive issues should be done AT HOME BY A PARENT, not at school by relative strangers.
- Brooke points out in her video that 'they' (the school) is trying to separate children from their parents. The questions asked on these surveys are probing to say the least. Many would be considered embarrassing by many students. Once the child is exposed to this information it can become hard for them to tell their parents about it. This creates a division between parent and child which is real and unconscionable.
- The data for the YRBS is provided to the CDC which provides it to numerous other agencies such as the National Center for Education Statistics, and who knows whether individual students can be tracked through this survey.
WHAT CAN YOU DO?
- Homeschool (without using a K-12 - or other - online program which are public in nature and therefore responsible for the same types of data collection and policies), or privately educate your children if possible. Removing customers from the system is the only way to change the system.
- Accept the evidence and realize your child's privacy is in jeopardy in public schools and work to change that.
- Realize YOU THE PARENT have ALL the control. If you don't want your child taking these surveys, inform the school - IN WRITING - you want your child opted out of the activities you desire and tell your child not to participate if the situation arises.
- When you find misuses of your child's privacy, inform your school board in writing and then show up at the meeting to address the board with your grievances (FYI: you should attend your child's school board meeting every month anyway as one of your parental duties). Also inform your state representative and senator because they can help with legislation to help stop data collection.
- Do not sign a computer release for your child to use the internet at school unless you know EXACTLY what programs will be used and what data will be collected during their 'on' hours.
- Enforce your parental right to direct the education of your child/children. No matter what school officials say, they cannot induce a child to do something that is against the wishes of the parent (for the most part - your child cannot be truant for example). Parental rights are universal and not granted by governments. Know your rights and be prepared to stand for the privacy of your student when necessary.