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NY LAWSUIT FILED TO PROTECT STUDENT PRIVACY AND BLOCK INBLOOM

November 14, 2013

Port Chester Public Schools hosted a community forum on NYS educational policy featuring NYSED Commissioner John King last month.  Many members of the Croton-Harmon school community attended and spoke against the way education reform is being implemented in New York State.  Click here for a link to the video of this forum and pay close attention to the Superintendent of Pleasantville schools at 00:20:45, Croton-Harmon School Board President Andrea Furey at 00:40:15, Croton-Harmon High School Principal Al Capasso at 1:04:00, Carrie E. Tompkins Elementary School teacher Jill Shapiro at 1:13:00 and CET Librarian Melissa Heckler, speaking at 1:14:28.

In the meantime, the prospect of school districts being forced to share student specific data to third party entities has roused the wrath of parents.

For immediate release

Wednesday, Nov.13, 2013

For more information contact: Leonie Haimson, leonie@classsizematters.org; 917-435-9329

LAWSUIT FILED IN NY STATE COURT TO PROTECT STUDENT PRIVACY AND BLOCK INBLOOM

This morning, Wednesday November 13, a lawsuit and a request for a restraining order will be filed in the New York State Supreme Court in Albany against Commissioner of Education John B. King and the Board of Regents, to prevent them from releasing any personal student information to the corporation known as inBloom Inc.  The lawsuit, filed by attorneys at the firm Pitta & Giblin LLP, representing twelve New York City public school parents, is based upon the claim that the disclosure of any child’s personally identifiable data without parental consent violates the Personal Privacy Protection Law, approved by the New York State Legislature in 1984.  The law enjoins any state agency from providing personally identifiable information to third parties without consent, unless this is necessary to operate a program specifically authorized by statute.  The request for a temporary restraining order is here: http://shar.es/8uA17, the memo of law is here: http://shar.es/8uA4a 

InBloom Inc., established by a $100 million dollar grant from the Gates Foundation, was designed as a multi-state data store, to collect and format personal student data and make it available to vendors to help them data mine, develop and market their software learning products.  After protests from parents and privacy experts, seven out of the nine original inBloom states have now pulled out of the project or put their data-sharing plans on hold.  Only New York and Illinois remain involved, and unlike New York, Illinois is allowing districts to decide whether they want to participate.  The information to be shared with inBloom and other vendors will include the names of all public and charter school students, their addresses, phone numbers, emails, grades, test scores, race and economic status, disability and health diagnoses, their attendance and suspension records, and any services they receive.  The data is to be stored on a vulnerable cloud run by Amazon.com, with an operating system built by Wireless Generation, a subsidiary of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation.

Leonie Haimson, the Executive Director of Class Size Matters, who has called attention to the state’s data sharing plan, said: “Commissioner King has ignored the protests of thousands of parents who have urged him to drop this plan and begged him to protect their children’s highly sensitive information. They have been joined by a growing chorus of school board members and Superintendents throughout the state who say that his data-sharing plan is not only unnecessary, it poses huge and unprecedented risks. I want to thank President Santos Crespo and the Executive Board of AFCSME Local 372 – NYC Board of Education employees, for supporting this lawsuit and fighting to protect student privacy.  It is intolerable that the state continues to ignore the pleas of parents. We call on Governor Cuomo, who has remained silent, to call for a halt to this unethical and dangerous plan.”

Karen Sprowal, the mother of a fifth grader in a New York City public school and a petitioner in the lawsuit said, “Ever since I’ve heard about inBloom Inc. I’ve been unable to rest easy.  My son has special needs and I have to partner closely with his school and his doctors to ensure that he receives the services he requires.  Up to now, his confidential records have been protected by his principal, the school’s nurse and psychologist, but now the state intends to provide this highly private information to vendors, without consulting me or asking for my permission.  Any information that is let loose on the internet can never be retrieved, and any breach or misuse of this data could harm his prospects for life, by impairing his ability to be admitted to college or get a good job. Commissioner King’s has shown a dismissive attitude towards the concerns of parents and indifference to the dangers facing my son and more than three million other children enrolled in the state’s public schools.  I pray that the court heeds our concerns and takes action to prevent this unethical and illegal plan.”

“As a parent of a child with autism, I am appalled by the intention of the New York State Education Department to override my parental rights and bypass my desire to safeguard my child’s sensitive data. Commissioner King’s plan to disclose this data to inBloom and other vendors is akin to my doctor sharing my son’s medical records without my consent.  I trust that the court will uphold my right and the right of all parents to weigh the risks and decide for themselves who should have access to their children’s most personal information,” said Lisa Rudley, one of the founders of the statewide coalition NY State Allies for Public Education and Director of Education Policy for Autism Action.

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