Share “Privacy of kids’ records debated”

BY CHRIS CASTEEL Published: April 18, 2010
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/> "We have people on the move, and we have to move data with children so we can make decisions about their educational lives,” Kitchens told the House committee.

Joel R. Reidenberg, a law professor at Fordham University and a former local school board member in New Jersey, isn’t as enthusiastic as educators about the move to collect more data about students.

After being alarmed at the kinds of information being collected by the state of New Jersey, Reidenberg helped direct a national study on what kind of information states were "warehousing” on kids.

He told the panel that many states were collecting far more information than was mandated by the No Child Left Behind law.

Nearly a third were collecting Social Security numbers; 22 percent were recording student pregnancies, and some were even tracking the birth weight of the babies; some were collecting medical test results and mental health records; and some were tracking juvenile criminal records, even though they aren’t public and are often expunged.

States aren’t open in telling the public what kind of information they’re gathering about students, Reidenberg said, meaning they’ve created "secret surveillance systems of children.”

"It is inevitable that children’s information will be compromised,” the Fordham University professor said, noting personal information of 18,000 students and 6,000 parents in Tennessee was released on the Internet from a state data warehouse program last year.

Miller, the chairman of the committee, agreed that privacy protections were essential, and the top Republican on the panel said he has already written a letter to U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan about his concerns.

"The stimulus significantly expanded the scope of federal involvement in student data, the consequences of which are only just beginning to emerge,” Rep. John Kline said.

Kline, R-Minn., said the long-term goal of the federal program was to create systems that will "track students from almost literally the cradle to their careers.”

Lawmakers "must ensure the data collected is narrow in scope and tightly controlled, with its use carefully monitored,” Kline said.

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