Who Is In Charge

Data security bills fall through but could be resurrected

PHOTO: Fredrik Olofsson via Flickr

Two of three bills that would have taken steps to redefine how the state’s education data is managed, accessed and stored, died in the Indiana legislature this week.

One of them — House Bill 1320, which would have created a data repository for parents — was scuttled by fears its author said are unfounded that it could make student personal information more vulnerable to be shared beyond schools and children’s families.

The other — Senate Bill 277 — was specifically designed to protect student information. It died after the author recognized technical errors in the bill language that it was too late to fix.

A third bill — House Bill 1003, which would use education data as part of the state’s workforce development efforts — passed the House this week and will be taken up by the Senate later this month.

While the bills each had different goals, together they raised concerns about who would control Indiana’s education data and how it would be protected.

House Bill 1320 was intended to give parents more information about their children’s test performance, said its author, Rep. Robert Behning, R-Indianapolis. But Behning chose to let the bill die in the House on Monday due to concerns raised by other Republicans — concerns that he said were unfounded.

Behning said feedback he received from conservative House Republicans led him to believe enough of them might vote against the bill that it could be defeated when combined with no votes from the Democrats. So he did not ask for a vote on the bill Monday on the last day for bills to be sent to the Senate.

“There is so much misinformation,” Behning said. “It created a stigma. Sometimes you can’t overcome these things.”

In Indiana, worries about student data privacy have grown along with opposition to national Common Core academic standards. Indiana was an early adopter of the Common Core, now in place in 45 states, but now appears ready to dump it in favor of newly created standards later this year. A bill that passed the Senate today would void the Common Core in Indiana after July 1 on the presumption that new standards will be in place by then.

Common Core opponents have argued that the standards could compromise students’ privacy. While the Common Core itself does not require data sharing, several states adopted the standards at the same time they accepted federal Race to the Top education grants and also agreed to share data with the U.S. Department of Education.

Behning said some of his Republican colleagues, particularly those associated with the tea party, told him they were skeptical that the data repository the bill would create could be protected if the federal government or companies were to seek access. Behning insisted that House Bill 1320 did not actually create new data sets, it simply allows a new way for parents to access information the state already collects. But, he said, rather than risk the bill’s defeat he chose to drop it and seek to have the the idea of a repository for parents amended into another bill.

That’s also the plan for Sen. Pete Miller, R-Avon with Senate Bill 277. One goal of Miller’s bill was to relieve the worry of Common Core critics and others that Indiana could be forced to share students’ personal information with the federal government or private companies.

But Miller said he discovered just before the bill was to be considered by the full Senate that an amendment had inadvertently altered language so that it could be interpreted as allowing access to student data instead of prohibiting it.

“I’ll try to work on the language and get it into a House bill,” he said.

meet the candidates

These candidates are running for Detroit school board. Watch them introduce themselves.

Nine candidates are vying for two seats on Detroit's school board in November. Seven submitted photos.

One candidate tells of a childhood in a house without heat.

Another describes the two-hour commute he made to high school every day to build a future that would one day enable him to give back to Detroit.

A third says her work as a student activist inspired her to run for school board as a recent high school grad.

These candidates are among nine people vying for two seats up for grabs on Detroit’s seven-member school board on Nov. 6. That includes one incumbent and many graduates of the district.

Chalkbeat is partnering with Citizen Detroit to present a school board candidate forum Thursday, Sept. 20 from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., at IBEW Local 58, 1358 Abbott St., Detroit.

Participants will have the opportunity to meet each candidate and ask questions in a speed-dating format.

In anticipation of that event, Citizen Detroit invited each of the candidates to make a short video introducing themselves to voters. Seven candidates made videos.

Watch them here:

School safety

Report lists litany of failings over police in Chicago schools

PHOTO: Scott Olson/Getty Images
Police officers stand alongside Lake Shore Drive in August as protesters decry violence and lack of investment in African-American neighborhoods and schools

The Chicago Police Department doesn’t adequately screen and train the officers it assigns to Chicago Public Schools, and their roles in schools are poorly defined, according to a sharply critical report released today by the Office of Inspector General Joseph Ferguson.

The report lists a litany of failings, including basic administration: There is no current agreement between the police department and the district governing the deployment of school resource officers, or SROs, and neither the schools nor the police even have a current list of the officers working in schools this year.

The inspector general’s report also mentions several sets of SRO resources and best practices created and endorsed by the federal government, then notes that Chicago hasn’t adopted any of them. “CPD’s current lack of guidance and structure for SROs amplifies community concerns and underscores the high probability that students are unnecessarily becoming involved in the criminal justice system, despite the availability of alternate solutions,” says the report.

Chalkbeat reported in August about incidents in which SROs used batons and tasers on students while intervening in routine disciplinary matters.

Scrutiny of SROs is nothing new, and is part of the broader CPD consent decree brokered this week between Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan. That agreement calls for better training and vetting of SROs, as well as a clearer delineation of their roles on campuses—including a prohibition against participating in routine school discipline — beginning with the 2019-20 school year.

Read more: How the police consent decree could impact Chicago schools

But the report from Ferguson’s office says that the consent decree doesn’t go far enough. It chastises police for not pledging to include the community in the creation of its agreement with the school district, nor in the establishment of hiring guidelines; and for not creating a plan for evaluating SROs’ performance, among other recommendations. In addition, the report criticizes the police department for delaying the reforms until the 2019-20 school year. A draft of the inspector general’s report was given to the police department in early August in hopes that some of the issues could be resolved in time for the school year that began last week. The police department asked for an extension for its reply.