North Dakota Bill Limits Student Data Collection

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Education, health and law enforcement officials in North Dakota considered a bill on Monday that would limit the ability to collect and share data about public school students in the state.  Many believe the bill could threaten a number of practices, including the collection of information pertaining to sex offenders in addition to the identification of students on honor roll.

Prime sponsor Rep. Ben Koppelman said the bill in effect makes it state law to collect the types of data already being collected while simultaneously forbidding the expansion of that list without approval from lawmakers.  He went on to say the bill was a necessity, as changes are occurring on a national level that redefine the permitted use for data and commercial data mining is seeing an expansion, writes Nick Smith for The Bismarck Tribune.

“Parents are concerned with the idea that their child’s data may be collected with very few restrictions as to the data points collected and to the use of that data,” Koppelman said.

He went on to say that as a parent of two children, the issue is one that he feels very strongly about.

“I don’t believe in open-ended data collection, but I am supportive of a reasonable and responsible data collection effort,” Koppelman said.

House Bill 1453 would place a limit on the data that can be collected by a state agency pertaining to a number of items, including names, addresses, age, gender, state assessment scores, grades, ID numbers and the federal programs the student participates in, among other things.

In addition, students, or parents of students younger than 18 would be notified prior to any directory information given out, and there would be a limit to who can receive the information.

Three parents stood in favor of the bill, discussing the example of the data breach last year within the North Dakota University System in addition to a recurrent need to replace their credit cards, writes Mike Nowatzki for Inforum.

Meanwhile, Jeff Fastnacht, superintendent at Ellendale Public School and president of the North Dakota Educational Technology Council, believes the limits to be far too restrictive.  He said schools would not be able to distribute a listing of couples attending prom, identify students who earn a 4.0 for honor roll, or recognize a student on the school’s website.

In addition, Steve Snow, director of management information systems for the state Department of Public Instruction, said the bill would not allow schools to comply with federal and state laws that require the collection of suspension, expulsion and truancy data.  That information would also not be available for the Youth Risk Behavior Survey, which offers millions in grant dollars to schools each year.

“Parents probably put more personal information about their children on Facebook than what schools collect,” said Lisa Feldner, North Dakota University System’s vice chancellor for information technology.\

The bill does offer parents the ability to opt out of having their children participate in surveys.  In addition, parents would also be given the right to opt out of programs that require their children to make use of electronic devices.  Lisa Feldner, North Dakota University System vice chancellor for information technology and institutional research, believes these additions to be against federal law.

At the same time, North Dakota’s House is considering whether or not to repeal state standards that lay out what children should know when pertaining to math and English.  The legislation is being sponsored by Rep. Jim Kasper in an effort to repeal Common Core standards for students in kindergarten through 12th grade.  Those who are looking to repeal the state standards feel they are representative of a federal takeover of education in the state.