#NASBE16: Afternoon Sessions

Two more concurrent sessions: School Surveillance - The Consequences for Equity and Privacy and School Turnarounds - Lessons Learned and New Opportunities Under ESSA. I've opted for School Surveillance.

States and districts are adopting technologies that can surveil students continuously. Experts discuss the pros and cons detailed in NASBE's new report released today: School Surveillance: The Consequences for Equity and Privacy and show how SBEs can create privacy and equity guardrails.

Amelia VanceNASBE
Monica BulgerData & Society Research Institute
Theodore HartmanMontgomery County Public Schools
Chad MarlowACLU
Dakarai Aarons, Data Quality Campaign (moderator)

Vance: It's a school's job to watch students. Lots of valid reasons for surveillance:
  • keeping students on task
  • ensuring safety
  • auditing and efficiency, i.e., tracking school buses to ensure they are running on time
While not meant in a malicious way, there are unintended consequences that may threaten a nurturing environment:
  • the surveillance effect
  • equity and the digital divide
  • the effect on discipline disparities
  • fear of the permanent record
One-to-one devices heighten equity and the digital divide;
The fear of a "permanent record" does not come into play

Key questions for policymakers to ask of SEAs and LEAs:
  • Which types of surveillance does our state employ?
  • What is the purpose for their use?
  • Are there policies in place to ensure surveillance is used equitably and respects privacy?
Seven Principles for Creating Equity and Student Privacy Guardrails of Governance:
  • Minimization - is surveillance the answer to the problem?
  • Proportionality - is the cost of surveillance proportional to the problem?
  • Transparency - making sure we're open about surveillance tech we're using (issues around trust)
  • Openness - with the community
  • Empowerment - not only for the benefit of the school, but for the broader community
  • Equity - making sure that all uses of technology are equitable; awareness of implicit biases that we have
  • Training - must have if going to make use of surveillance (privacy side, as well as equity side - implicit bias training)
Aarons: What are the challenges and opportunities?
  • Hartman: Fine line protecting the network for safety and privacy; finding the balance. Social media monitoring during Baltimore unrest - police were monitoring #blacklivesmatter
  • Marlow: plenty of of examples of where there is monitoring of hashtags like #blacklivesmatter; need to be aware of the misuse of monitoring. Layers of complexity. When you think in a broad sense, have to be careful of contexts; policies for checks, guardrails.
  • Vance: Surveillance dramatically went up after the Sandy Hook shootings; Sandy Hook had surveillance tech. A lot of tech surveils one-to-one devices, but is anyone taking a look at them? A lot of data is being collected and it's just sitting in a virtual box somewhere, waiting to be deleted and hasn't yet...needs protection
Aarons: Tell us about the ACLU's Bills proposed
  • Marlow: Surveillance=data capturing. Report cards. Not all is bad. Model bills try to strike a balance between school needs and privacy. Areas & risks:
    • student information systems - are virtual filing cabinets. It's helpful in terms of time and lessons. Enormous value. Potential downside - the fear of the permanent record. Need strict control of how long the data is kept. Empowering parents and students how their data can be used.
    • another area is one-to-one devices. Students can use for the year, but again, opportunities for inappropriate use. Need privacy protection for kids. Should not be at greater risk for searches. Bill says must contact parents first regarding
    • social media privacy - social media is the most vibrant free-speech kids have right now; protect those platforms for kids' safety.
Aarons: On social media:
  • Hartman: We have an enormous responsibility to help kids. Do we want to be monitoring devices? No. But, we know kids who are LGBTQ, for example, are bullied at a much higher rate than non-LGBTQ; also more suicidal as a result
  • Vance: first line of defense (for cyberbullying, self-harm, etc) should not be surveillance, but digital citizenship. There's a liability issue here. Need to keep an eye on protecting students.
  • Bulger: I would push back on using child protection as a gateway for monitoring. When you talk to teens about it, they are very aware of their need for privacy. Take care not to escalate small offenses; need training and awareness on how to manage this [in schools].
  • Marlow: when a student is given a device for a year, in their mind, they lose sight and think it is their own. Have to be very careful to allow people to explore and seek help; surveillance may keep them from exploring identity and/or seeking help. Always intervening doesn't always help.
  • Bulger: during physical and psychological development, there's experimentation; surveillance can hinder identity growth
  • Marlow: in response to bills, some states are carving out exceptions, attempts by the tech industry to see how far to go
  • Hartman: this is where the convo can spiral out of control, which is great for us student privacy nerds. With all of the free apps, thats for a different panel...back to surveillance!
Marlow, in response to audience Q: School Resource Officer is not in the same category as teachers and administrators, in terms of the way they interact with students; creates for a more complicated policy if all are included. Also, body cams are a bad idea for students in schools. Vance: One thing US DoE is developing resources on (FERPA): law enforcement records are not student records; not subject to same protections.

Kansas Q: WRT student records - how long to retain? Hartman: state law - in Maryland, it's 5 yrs, and it's media neutral. Vance: varies dramatically by state. Aarons: find out in your states and create good policy.

Maine Q: Wer'e really interested in this, but falling to local districts, no overriding state policy. Do you see that across the country? Vance: overwhelmingly, yes. Over 400 bills on student privacy, many have created state level requirements, none, however, have taken surveillance into account. As policymakers, power of the question!

Wyoming Q, a local control state - very concerned about student rights. Scrutiny and fear. As SBE member, must communicate with stakeholders about balance for security and liberty. Where is the balance for kids' freedoms? Also: at what point does too much surveillance take away from citizen responsibility? Marlow: TY. We've talked about risks - also need to talk about the risks to our First, Fourth, Thirteenth, Fourteenth amendment rights. It's critical. Risks in 2016 are being highlighted, like the bombing in Chelsea where I live. Social media has brought down dictators in the Middle East. All are legit teaching moments to behave responsibly. The way you fight bad speech is not by censoring it. It's with good speech. Hartman: the convo has to be had in a fundamental way. Keep the convo nuanced, not at the extremes. Marlow: we have a privacy carve out in our model bills. Balance is the challenge.

This post was edited to correct typos and some formatting.