In response to our campaign to lobby our legislators and Governor to put a leash on John White’s reckless and illegal privacy violations, John White sent out a letter to local superintendents. This letter tries to mischaracterize our objections and goals, while pointedly ignoring the underlying issues and facts. I will set the record straight on a point by point (between the lines) basis so you can be the judge of who to “believe.”
As the recent investigation and federal probe into Bobby Jindal’s DHH head, Bruce Greenstein, shows, government agencies and their appointed heads are more than capable of performing illegal acts, and lying about them.
For an official copy of this letter please refer here:
A copy has been preserved by this blog as evidence. LDOE has a nasty habit of “losing” all their incriminating or revealing memos and files and we wouldn’t want that to happen here.
LOUISIANA DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION
Over the past few weeks, you may have received communications expressing concern over the inBloom data storage system. I wanted to take a moment to clarify some misinformation, and I wanted to reiterate the state’s continuing commitment to student privacy.
By sharing every last detail about your children with out-of-state, unaccountable data vendors we can guarantee all students and parents should expect zero privacy. Whereas before most of this data was housed internally, we have fired all internal data folks to manufacture a crisis which we are using as an excuse to contract with a vendor I have personal dealings with and will probably accept a job with after I leave here. (Please refer to excerpt from FOIA request at end of this post)
Both the state and each school district use an electronic system to store information regarding each student. These systems are provided by private vendors with which the state and district have contracts.
Of course school districts choose their own vendors, house their own data, and have ultimate authority over who has access to it, and who doesn’t. They have a say in their security measures, and so forth. InBloom is an independent contractor which has accepted no risk for any accidental exposure, misuse, and offers no protections to students for inaccuracies contained in the data. We plan to require all local school districts use inBloom for their data services in the future, and stop using local systems like JPAMS, Pentamation, STI, Powerschool, Lafourche, Excel, Cims, SASI, etc.
Just as we have gotten rid of librarians, social workers, guidance counselors, we also plan to boot local data coordinators and rely entirely on out-of-state contractors that only report to the Louisiana Department of Education. If you are nice to us we might give you reports on your own students from time to time.
We are in active discussions to design this system. The first step will be having local school districts send daily files to a third-party vendor while we work with them to replace your entire data infrastructure with one we like, paid for out of a portion of your MFP dollars we will negotiate on your behalf.
In this case, inBloom has provided a data storage system for the Louisiana Department of Education. Having such a system is a longstanding practice in our state and in all states and districts across the country.
Except most systems (until this past year when software vendors secretly lobbied the US Department of Education to change FERPA)
[But in 2011, regulations issued by the department changed FERPA to allow the release to third parties of student information for non-academic purposes. The rules also broaden the exceptions under which schools can release student records to non-governmental organizations without first obtaining written consent from parents. And they promote the public use of student IDs that enable access to private educational records, according to EPIC, a nonprofit public-interest center based in Washington D.C.]
were housed and controlled entirely by and within state departments of education.
You guys may not know this, but we actually already developed a 4 million dollar warehouse that contains all this data we are giving to inBloom too. However now we will be creating a new database and sharing all of your children’s most intimate details with external vendors too. There is no obvious benefit to you or them from doing this. Our internal system, called LEDRS, is more than capable of producing reports and statistics with de-identified data (in other words without student names and social security numbers.) In fact, it was designed with improving privacy in mind. However external vendors are not interested in offering me or my folks multi-million dollar contacts and jobs unless I give them all of your kid’s data, when we leave Louisiana. So that’s why I am giving them everything they need to harvest your children well into their geriatric years. In fact, the Crawfish was, and probably still is since he mapped and designed most of it, the only expert on this system – and we fired everyone else who worked on it so we can claim we have no way to use it.
And to clarify some terms, by long-standing practice, we mean a few months, and by many states we mean just Louisiana and New York, and New York is being sued right now over this very issue by numerous parent organizations, but I’m from New York and we care about our kids up there.
This system is not different from the databases that districts and schools use on a regular basis today. Commercial vendors contract and work with the state and with school districts to provide storage for data. As is the case now, these companies will continue to establish legal agreements with the state and districts. They are bound by the federal laws and may not share data with anyone unless authorized to do so under the law.
Except the federal law was changed secretly, at the behest of vendors like inBloom, to allow me to send your data to vendors like inBloom to use as they see fit, and to subcontract out any work and any access to any other vendor without getting permission from anyone but themselves. The legality of this change to a federal law by a policy change in a federal agency charged with preserving student privacy is also the subject of a lawsuit.
The data stored in this database will continue to be under the strict control of the state, as it has been in the past.
By strict control we mean we will have zero people monitoring this data; zero people auditing how this data is stored. We will not hold vendors accountable for any accidental release, require anyone pass a background check before using this data, nor will we have the data on site, as we do now. In every other way (except every way) we will operate as we have in the past. If it makes you feel any better I fired virtually everyone who collected, reported or audited this data shortly after I came.
If you think about it, all I’m really doing is giving unlimited access to unmonitored strangers looking to make as much money off this data as they can and hopefully show me some love when I leave.
The Louisiana Department of Education is in strict compliance with all laws governing the privacy of student information and expects the same from all schools and school districts. The Department respects the right to privacy for children and families and is committed to safeguarding this right.
By committed we mean, we are committed to concealing data from researchers that will disprove our lies, but we will share this data with anyone else who might give me a multi-million dollar thank you job when I leave LDE.
If you have any other concerns regarding this issue, please contact me directly.
Seriously, you should probably tell me off and call me on my lies and BS. My email address is John.firstname.lastname@example.org I’m a real tool, but that’s gotten me this far. . .
Louisiana Department of Education
I thought you all might want to see my secret machinations related to destroying our internal data systems, hiring outside vendors to handle all our IT functions, and our plot to get buy-in from local school districts to support this effort to separate them from their existing data systems. Enjoy. (JW)