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Asserting Student Privacy Rights

Our school boards need to adopt strong policies that keep our children's data at home. Your vote IN FAVOR of this resolution asks them to do exactly that --- formally establish basic human rights for our students by keeping their personal data safely here at home under strict controls. For more information, visit

Should our children's personal information be kept safely here in our local school district? Or should school officials be free to transfer it wherever, whenever, and to whomever they want? Right now, our district schools store almost all personal information about our children on a computer in Minnesota, including their daily class attendance, what they eat for lunch, what they read in the library, their individual homework and quiz grades, their report card grades, their photographs, outstanding financial charges, parental status, and contact information.

The mischief began in March, 2012, when the WCSU executive committee selected a new software package from a Minnesota company. By the following September, nearly all student data had been quietly moved across country to corporate control. A few concerned parents then unsuccessfully lobbied the U-32 board for over a year. But the abuse extends beyond the U-32 Middle and High School to the elementary schools in Berlin, Calais, East Montpelier, Middlesex, and Worcester.

By law and existing school policy, our students and their parents are the primary owners of student information. Your ownership of your car means that other people can't drive it around or move it to somebody else's garage without your permission. But, while a stolen car can be recovered or replaced, loss of personal information is deeply intimate, damaging, and forever. We need strong local policy to secure our children's basic rights in the face of lost Federal protections, the whims of local school administrators, and often distracted (or even co-opted) local school boards.

Keeping our children's data on computers here in the district was our practice for many years previous. Local storage will not prevent "portal" access by parents to their child's information, and system availability for the staff will suffer less from Internet disruptions. If comparable or identical software is used, then bringing the data back home will probably increase the security of our student records, because they will not be temptingly pooled with millions of others. According to staff, if the school brings the data home while using the current software product, then the vendor will impose an additional annual fee of $6000-7000. This fee would be shared across the five towns and amounts to approximately one half of one tenth of one percent of the U-32 budget.

Perhaps in accepting the initial software recommendation, the executive committee may not have fully appreciated its implications. But, more than a year later, local school boards have had ample opportunity to stand up for the basic human rights of students and parents. School officials hate giving up power, but students, parents, and voters deserve better from school board members than their habitual deference to unelected administrators. Your vote for securing student privacy rights will help to reassert our deepest community values in multiple ways.