For the parents who think data collection and privacy are not significant issues in our public schools, you might want to read HB 13. The bill has already been approved by the House and is working its way through the Senate. In brief the bill amends the current health assessment form requirement in a way that is incredibly invasive and exceeds any current legal requirements.
Current law requires each student to have a health assessment before entering school. The statutes (NC General Statutes 130A-441) also delegate authority to the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Public Instruction to create the form used. If parents do not submit a form, principals will supply “deficiency statement” to parents. They have 30 days from the time a “deficiency statement” is issued to supply a form to the school. If a health assessment form is not presented during that time, children will not be allowed to attend public school. A look at the new Health Assessment form created by DHSS and DPI shows there are substantial changes. First, let’s remember the form is only referenced in HB 13 and specifically not mentioned. Lawmakers do not vote on the form, only the requirement, so may not be aware of the scope of the current problems.
The new health assessment form includes screening for five learning domains (emotional/social, problem solving, language/communications, fine motor skills, gross motor skills). The domains were included to satisfy data requirements for a federal grant. The information will then be used to create a “child profile” for each student.
The new form asks for information regarding such things as medications, allergies and development concerns, but also includes such questions as where the child gets regular health care. Health care providers are asked to list pertinent illnesses, risks or developmental problems as well as rate the child’s performance in different developmental domains.
How will the schools get this information? Parents are also asked to sign a parental consent form to allow the child’s health care provider or school personnel to discuss the child’s health assessment information with the Department of Health and Human Services and to “collect and analyze information … to better understand the health needs of children in NC.” Parents are essentially asked to sign over their child’s medical and developmental history to state agencies.
If you don’t hear the alarms going off, you might not be listening.
What’s all this data and medical information to be used for?
According to HB 13, every child entering a North Carolina public school will be required to have a health assessment form completed as part of their “official record.”
Yes, that’s right, their “official record.”
Anyone following education and the debate over Common Core over the past few years knows the amount of student data being collected is growing, with most of it tied to the receipt of federal grants.
Aside from reducing education to mere instrument to manage the “workforce,” the opportunity for abuse and violations of student privacy are very real.
Parents should be concerned because information is gathered beyond mere cognition. Health care providers are asked to rate students on development domains such as emotional/social, problem solving, language/communications, fine motor skills and gross motor skills. Interpretation of these domains by health care provides is very subjective. Yet such data will stay with the child and be used to form a “profile” of the child.
Understandably, school officials and administrators have tried to tamp down concerns by parents. Do parents know the data will be collected on the child until adulthood?
The fact is, there is no guarantee that student data is safe. Using a “unique identifier” does not guarantee a child’s name is protected. Other forms of data such as video or pictures make it fairly easy to determine students’ identities.
The questions about data collection are significant. Parents should also be informed as to where the data is stored and for how long. Do students have access to a copy? Who owns the data? What happens to the data when it’s no longer used?
This is all very troubling. What’s even more troubling is that state agencies want all this information fully knowing they cannot require parents to provide it. The parental consent form is optional. Parents do not have to file it. However, parents are not informed that they have that option. Were parents in the counties that were pilot-tested informed of their options?
If this sounds like government agencies doing an end-run around parents to get data that they know parents would not agree to release, you’d be right. If you’re wondering why so many parents don’t trust the public schools, you know why.