Student information is usually used in a secure and confidential manner by only allowing trusted officials that are well-trained in protecting our rights. However, in the case of Morgan Hill versus the California Concerned Parent Association (CCPA), the release of personal information of almost 10 million California minors for the sake of a statistical analysis breaks many privacy rights and threatens our personal security.
According to Morgan Hill Times, the CCPA plans to use the data to determine whether students were “properly assessed for a particular disability” as well as determine if students with disabilities were given “adequate services to support their educational success.” Yet, this assessment can be performed without breaching privacy rights.
In terms of privacy, the release of information, such as social security numbers (SSN), could lead to a rise in identity and personal theft. Although it is optional to put a SSN on school forms for minors, this threatens the security and privacy of families that choose to do so. According to Carnegie Mellon CyLab, children are 51 times are more likely to be attacked than adults. Therefore, this open access to resources could cause rise of security hazards.
For one, the release of the information is a violation of several acts including the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). Under FERPA, student education records are protected by allowing parents certain rights in regards to accessing and releasing student information. Once the student turns 18 or attends a postsecondary institution, these rights will be transferred to them. According to USA Today, examples of information that will be released include addresses along with mental and physical assessments.
Secondly, the data collected would not be appropriate for the CCPA’s purposes. Information on all students who have attended a public school in California will be released, if parents do not choose to opt out by April first. However, not all students remained in California for all K-12 years. In addition, a majority of students are not classified as needing special education. Therefore, releasing their information would be counterintuitive to their analysis.
Likewise, it can be fairly difficult to determine what a special needs student is. A student is classified as special needs through several methods, which are often observed by teachers. According to the Education Bureau, some common development and learning triggers include language ability, behavior, emotions and student attentiveness.
There are also several factors to take into account when analyzing special needs cases, as each child has a different situation. Examples include family situations, financial status, race and ethnicity. As a result, releasing this information may not be as helpful in relation to their purpose as they thought it might.
Lastly, this policy will be implemented too early. The fact that parents and older students only have the option to opt out of having their information released by April 1, demonstrates how uninformed the public would be.
As a safety precaution, a court-appointed data analyst will filter the data necessary for the association to provide the information needed, and will not be released to the public. However, it still heightens the risk of individuals being targeted directly for identity theft as the organization, consultants and attorneys would have access to their information.
It is understandable that the CCPA and Morgan Hill would want justice for special educated children that have been treated unfairly. However, an alternative method for the CCPA to consider could be to ensure that teachers take into further account of students who are special needs, rather than having to perform an unnecessary process that can negatively impact many children who attended a California public school.