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Privacy Wins: Colorado Parents Defeat inBloom Student Data Mining Program

inbloomParents and their children scored a big victory in Colorado for privacy when the state ended its relationship with inBloom, which data mines the personal information of families.

The highly controversial program was still in the pilot stages when a public uproar over the invasion of privacy prompted Jefferson County Schools to reverse its stance on the matter, and the state followed course.

As previously reported by Off The Grid News, inBloom collects and stores information not only about students’ standardized test scores and enrollment information but details about “hundreds of other data points” as well – names, address, religious affiliation, disciplinary status, household income and health records. The data can be shared with third parties —

Parental activists Sunny Flynn and Rachel Strickland have been leading the movement against inBloom in the state. During a meeting with Jefferson County Schools Superintendent Cynthia Stevenson to learn more about the inBloom program, Strickland learned that the school board had not approved the program, the activist told The Blaze.

Colorado Board of Education Commissioner Robert Hammond said he supported inBloom but that the state would not participate due to concerns:

Using these tools, teachers would have been able to more easily support their students’ needs by helping them learn at their own pace and truly master a concept before moving forward. In my opinion, this continues to be an important goal in educating our students for the 21st century. Unfortunately, concerns and questions persisted in Jefferson County that led to their decision to withdraw from inBloom.

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Until Strickland and Flynn helped brng nationwide attention to the invasion of privacy, data mining, and tracking mechanisms involved with inBloom, disciplinary information about children was also automatically included in the information collected at the schools. Due to the momentum of the movement to halt the program, guidelines were changed and now parents can opt out of that portion of inBloom. The Jefferson County school district also decided not to collect information about family status, disabilities, and food assistance.

Flynn said it was a big victory:

It has been very exciting. We thought we had a longer battle in front of us. Now that the Colorado Board of Education has decided to terminate its relationship with inBloom it shows that Commissioner [Robert] Hammond is listening to parents. We hope that [New York’s Board of Regents and Education Commissioner John King] takes this as a really important message. This is not about security, this is about privacy. The technology has simply gotten ahead of leadership and policies.

Stevenson, a proponent for Common Core and InBloom, resigned from her post in recent weeks following the election of conservative candidates to the board. She had wholeheartedly embraced Common Core initiatives and had even made headlines in the New York Times. The nonprofit program was originally called the “Shared Learning Collaborative” and garnered a plethora of support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Carnegie Corporation.

A group of New York City parent activists recently filed a lawsuit in the New York State Supreme Court to halt the program there. Class Size Matters advocacy group executive director Leoni Haimson said Education Commissioner John King has ignored the outcry from thousands of parents who have urged for him to stop inBloom in their state.

“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,” she said.

South Orangetown Superintendent Kenneth Mitchell told the Poughkeepsie Journal:

There is a lot of fear out there. Parents are always concerned for their children’s futures. And there are always unknowns, but we have entered new times in which there is a diminution of privacy. When parents hear concerns that data generated in the present may have a negative impact on the lives of their children in the future, they will take any action necessary.

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