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Protection of confidential student information sought by Oklahoma legislators

BY MICHAEL MCNUTT Published: March 31, 2013

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.

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