Rules for school tools, privacy in danger


The surprise announcement by the District administrators to have every St Paul student be given an Ipad (mini-laptop) took many people (even the school board) and public by surprise. The coverage by the two daily newspapers recently has received front page attention. The St Paul School District decided to completely shift gears from what they told voters last year when we voted for a school tax referendum. As soon as I read the articles the questions started to flow. Would there be a parent anywhere who would support the school district’s actions to abrogate their families and children’s privacy rights? Does the Ipad initiative violate students/family privacy and liberty rights? Does the School district have the right to install devices in the Ipads that allow monitoring and surveillance of where students go and what they do? What are the choices that parents and students have?

I spoke with a school board member who said to me that students/parents may not have a right to privacy with Ipads. The member said employer’s ask them to sign away their right to privacy. I said correct, but an employer can ask you to sign away your privacy, but it’s different with government, an employer is not a government entity. Can it be a requirement to waive your 1st and 4th Amendment privacy rights and liberty as a condition for receiving an Ipad from the St Paul School District? Is that illegal in itself?

When I asked Karen Randall, a leaders in the Ipad initiative for the district, if there are rules in place to protect student’s and families privacy with the school issued Apple Ipad’s? I did not get a clear and straight answer. She referred to a study that was done last year by a security specialist. She also tacked on there was input by community people at the same time. But that was a year ago when Ipad’s were not in the school district’s dreams or where they? But are there comprehensive and detailed rules in place to protect student’s and families privacy? What rationale and standards are there for a school official to get access to data on the Ipad? I would say the answer is NO

It seems that the St Paul School District wants to develop their own privacy policies without any input from the community and parents. Parents, students, and community members should demand that our school district have very clear rules with input from the public.The school board should demand and necessitate a group of parents, privacy people, and others to suggest what the rules for the tools should be. Not dictated by the school district management which in my judgement do not know what they’re doing when it comes to technology and protection of privacy/liberty.

The questions still flow. What kind of data sharing or collection will there be with Apple? What will they do with it? Will the issued Ipads track student’s activity and block certain websites including social media? Will the discriminatory barrier stay in place after the school hours?

Will social sites be blocked? How about YouTube and other kinds of sites?

The St Paul School District through the Ipad Apple program will collect details about students and families that they that have never done before. With privacy there is a lack of trust with institutions, such as the public schools. By engaging the community with diligence on the data privacy issues on the Ipad program with respect……….the school district can make a significant step forward in building a trust relationship between parents, students, and schools. What are the rules for the tools?