Grundy Center Community Schools have been using Polar Monitors in their P.E. classes for a decade now. That still shouldn’t eliminate our concern for privacy. The Revered Review did an investigation of the usage of these monitors which has garnered international attention in the past. TRR’s article brings up the question of privacy:
Some have questioned the use of monitors in schools and outside the classroom, and the possible intrusion of students’ privacy. In addition, some Polar software allows health risk assessments by students to be completed, enabling personal information—such as alcohol use, sexual activity and even risk for heart disease and cancer—on students to be collected. So far, schools questioned by The Revered Review said they do not use these health risk assessments.
Indeed, the ACLU and Emmett McGroarty, the executive director of the Preserve Innocence Initiative of the American Principles Project, also indicated parental consent and the opportunity to opt in to the monitor use were important. However, they also expressed concern about student privacy.
Superintendent Cassandra Murra said they received parental consent for the monitors and they gave the opportunity to opt-in or opt-out. In this interview while trying to alleviate the privacy concern actually raises a few more.
She said that communication is important. “We have to communicate with parents and the community,” Murra said. She explained that as part of the state’s health standards, some data on students is necessary, and parents now are more cautious and want to know more.
“It is a legitimate concern, and we have to be open and honest on what data is being used for.” She said they take FERPA rules very seriously. “The school district is looking out for the best interest of our students.”
“We’re not going to turn anyone into the Department of Health and Human Services,” Murra said. “We want parents to be responsible for their own children.”
The Grundy Center , according to Murra, “does not use the health care assessment software by Polar that contains personal student health and lifestyle data.”
However, 12th grade high school students do fill out a family history form—that includes immediate family, maternal and paternal family history. The family health history includes what diseases family members have, how a grandparent died, and other chronic illnesses that may run in the family.
According to Murra, this information is completed by the students and is completely private. “It is not anything that is presented or shared with anyone else.” The students alone have access to it, and she said it helps them understand what their risk is for certain diseases based on their family history, she said.
First off the U.S. Department of Education released new regulations which weaken FERPA. So saying they take FERPA rules seriously doesn’t mean anything in light of what the Obama Administration now permits schools to do in terms of data mining. Secondly, they currently don’t use the Polar software, again under new FERPA regulations who is to say that won’t change? Third, the comment Superintendent Murra that they are “not going to turn anyone into the Department of Health and Human Services” demonstrates that it is a possibility. She said, “we want parents to be responsible for their own children.” What if Grundy Center gets a new superintendent who feels differently?
Heart monitors and equipment that help students learn to keep track of their progress is great. Data collection of any sort is not.
Originally posted at American Principles in Action