Parents of Oklahoma public school students shouldn't have to worry that the personal data of their children could be sold to private companies, several legislators say.
They have filed House Bill 1989, which would establish a system of safeguards to protect student privacy and ensure the integrity of the state student data system.
“It stops the release of confidential student data to organizations located outside the state without the written consent of an Oklahoma student's parent or guardian,” said Rep. David Brumbaugh, one of the measure's authors. “We understand there are needs for student achievement and performance … but we want to make sure that these students' privacy and security are protected.”
In New York, state education officials are uploading private information about students — their names, addresses, test scores, learning disabilities, attendance and disciplinary records — into a private company's database, according to the New York Daily News. Parents are upset that New York, one of nine states that have contracted with the company, inBloom, did so without giving families a chance to opt out of sharing the information.
InBloom is a new database funded primarily by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Several people attending a rally last week at the state Capitol expressed concerns about the company; Oklahoma does not have a contract with the company.
HB 1989 would require the Education Department to use only aggregate data in public reports. It would prohibit the department from providing individual student data to other organizations or agencies outside the state.
HB 1989 also would require the department to develop a detailed data security plan.
Brumbaugh, R-Broken Arrow, said that part of the legislation is a result of the Education Department posting on its website in June the private educational records of seven students who were seeking exemptions from a state law that required high school seniors to pass at least four of seven end-of-instruction tests to earn a diploma.
“We want to stop that from happening again, Brumbaugh said. “And also the other issue is when you're sharing data like this and it's out there, we know that no system is immune from being hacked into, and on top of that these Internet predators can get hold of young people's data and we don't want that to happen.”
The state Education Department does not oppose the bill, said Joel Robison, the agency's chief of staff.
“We're trying to just make sure that we're able to continue to do the reporting that we have to do for federal and state reports,” Robison said. “As long as that isn't jeopardized, and if the bill puts more protections in so people can feel more comfortable about us not releasing information that we shouldn't be releasing, it's fine with us.”
The department is not providing any confidential student information now, he said.
“The only information we share with government bodies is for education purposes,” Robison said. “We're not going to be releasing information to any private companies or anything like that.”
HB 1989 identifies student data as state and national assessment results, course taking and completion, as well as credits earned; course grades and grade-point average; date of birth, grade level, attendance and mobility; discipline reports; and demographic data. Student data does not include juvenile delinquency records; criminal records; medical and health records; student Social Security numbers and student biometric information.
HB 1989 so far has received unanimous support. The House of Representatives Government Modernization Committee passed it 12-0 and it passed 87-0 in the House. It is waiting to be heard by the Senate Rules Committee.
Rep. Jason Nelson, a co-author of the bill, said the measure also would require the Education Department to make public what type of information is being collected.