Multiple States Seek to Expand Invasive Mental Health Screening in Schools

In the wake of multiple horrific school shootings — particularly the Parkland, Fla., massacre where 17 people were murdered by a student long-known to have mental issues — states all over the nation have been moving to expand mental health screening, treatment, and data collection. The two most prominent states are Florida and Texas, but Georgia and other states are also joining this dangerous craze. The Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Safety Act (extensively discussed in this space) expanded mental screening of students by unqualified, minimally trained teachers and other school personnel despite admissions by psychiatric physicians trained for years

Anti-Privacy Database Bill Set to Become Law without Trump Veto

HR 4174, the privacy-crushing de facto national database bill discussed here earlier this week and recently at Townhall, will become law as early as tomorrow, January 12th, without a presidential veto. Economic and privacy experts are gravely concerned about this bill due to its potential to expand the welfare state and planned economy and an increased vulnerability of government data to hacking. This will also affect our children due to the ever-expanding mountain of data collected on them through education technology and state longitudinal databases as well as the weakening of FERPA, the federal privacy law. Although much is happening with

4 Important Takeaways from the Federal School Safety Report

The Federal Commission on School Safety released their final report this past week. Given its sweeping scope, the report naturally contained many recommendations that were seen as controversial, regardless of one’s perspective on a particular issue. Here are four key takeaways regarding the issues of academic excellence, parental rights, privacy, and freedom of conscience. (The formal comments I submitted on these issues are available here.) 1.) The commission correctly recommended rescinding the Obama-era school discipline policy. In fact, this was such an important issue that Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, who chaired the commission, officially rescinded the policy just three

FBI Warns of Grave Cyber Security Threat to Students from School Tech

Finally! Although the horse may be long out of the barn, the FBI should nevertheless be commended for issuing this warning about the dangers of education technology and cyber security threats for students and their families: The FBI is encouraging public awareness of cyber threat concerns related to K-12 students. The US school systems’ rapid growth of education technologies (EdTech) and widespread collection of student data could have privacy and safety implications if compromised or exploited. The warning gives a list of many types of data that can maliciously exploited, rightly saying that this is not all-inclusive: personally identifiable information

Students’ Privacy Under Serious Threat in Era of School Shootings

As the number of school shootings increase, social media and mental health data are becoming very hot commodities. The federal School Safety Commission talked about how data sharing can be improved to prevent school violence at both of its July 11th and July 26th meetings. The trend in both meetings was to see the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) as creating a barrier to sharing information that could have prevented tragedies like the Parkland shooting. For example, as described in Education Week coverage of the July 26th meeting: Clarence Cox III, the president of the National Organization of

Texas School Safety “Action Plan” Contains More Problems than Solutions

After yet another tragic school shooting — this time in Santa Fe, Texas, resulting in the deaths of eight students and two teachers — Texas has followed the example of Florida and proposed a plan that vastly expands mental health screening and diagnosis in the state’s schools. The first element of the plan is to “provide mental health evaluations that identify students at risk of harming others and provide them with the help they need.” This is the Telemedicine Wellness Intervention Triage & Referral (TWITR) Project, one of the programs that I wrote about several weeks ago. This program sends

6 Key Takeaways from Congress’ Hearing on Protecting Student Data

Yesterday, the U.S. House Education and Workforce Committee held a hearing titled, “Protecting Privacy, Promoting Data Security: Exploring How Schools and States Keep Data Safe.” Here are some key takeaways: 1.) More leaders are realizing the need to reduce the amount of student data collected. By far, the best witness from a parental rights and pro-privacy perspective was David Couch, Chief Information Officer for the Kentucky Department of Education. A former military cyber security expert, his most cogent remarks had to do with decreasing the amount of data collected: We have put KDE on a “healthy data diet” so that

Privacy Alert: Will China Soon Be Using Big Data to Influence U.S. Students?

This article was originally posted at The Federalist. The recent Facebook controversy focused Americans’ attention on the dangers of uncontrolled access to and use of individual online data. But as a nation we have a notoriously short attention span, which Big Business and Big Data count on to enable business as usual. Beginning with our children’s education data and continuing for the rest of their lives, the sky’s the limit for what can be done when all that glittering data is sifted, stirred, and exploited. Some states have enacted certain protections for students’ online data, but most of these statutes allow sale of