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October 11, 2013

Contact:  Elois Zeanah, This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it ; 205/247-5389

Tuscaloosa, AL:   The state board of education on Thursday, October 10, 2013, adopted a policy that supposedly protects student privacy while it allows the collection, data-mining and sharing of private, non-academic information on students without parental permission.  This pervasive collection, tracking and sharing of student privacy information with the federal government and private parties was made possible when President Obama changed FERPA (the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act) through regulation in December 2011. 

 “Even George Orwell would be shocked to the extent that the State Superintendent of Education and majority state school board will allow spying on our children at school,” said Elois Zeanah, president of the Alabama Federation of Republican Women, continuing, “Concerned citizens asked legislators to restore the privacy rights stripped by President Obama during the 2013 session, but the Superintendent lobbied hard against it.

Zeanah speculated that a primary reason the Superintendent wrote a policy that vastly weakens SB190 and doesn’t want the legislature to pass a bill to restore the privacy protection stripped from FERPA is that he fears he will lose federal money.

“ALDOE received one-half billion dollars from the 2009 Stimulus Bill in exchange for developing a state longitudinal data system.  Also, when the Board applied for a waiver from No Child Left Behind, it agreed to implement the standards, aligned assessments, and data-mining; and it will receive additional multi-millions of dollars.  The Board no longer has the power to protect student privacy because they’ve ‘sold’ their right to the federal government.  Only the State Legislature can help us now.” 

Personal data unrelated to academics will include some students’ behaviors and psychosocial attributes.  Zeanah stated, “Children can be asked about their sexual preferences, drug use, political and religious beliefs, etc.  Given the recent examples of how the federal government uses data to punish its political enemies and picks winners and losers, why would the Superintendent and state board (with the exception of Stephanie Bell and Betty Peters who voted against the policy) want to subject our children to this threat?  The only way to protect our children is to not collect compromising information in the first place.  Let’s hope the Legislature will right this wrong.”