Parents, Privacy Advocates in California Object to Release of Student Information

After finding out that the personal information of millions of students in California is to be provided to attorneys for a nonprofit advocacy organization, many parents have become upset, and they are joined in their concern by privacy advocates.

According to Linda McNulty of the California Concerned Parents Association (CCPA), more than 3,000 emails were received by the group in response to the discovery, and while some were supportive, others were “threatening.”

The conflict stems from a lawsuit brought by the CCPA in 2011 against the state’s Department of Education, alleging that the state was not taken sufficient action to educate students with disabilities. To make the case to a federal court, the CCPA asked the state to provide student information for research. The organization did not expect the backlash to be so strong.

The CCPA asked for anonymous data, but a federal judge required the state to turn over specific data, which could include Social Security numbers, addresses, and disciplinary records, in addition to students’ names. Much of that data could be used by fraudsters to commit identity theft, said Eva Velazaques of the Identity Theft Resource Center.

In order to prevent identity theft, the judge ordered the state to provide the data to an independent Special Master who would share it with the CCPA’s law firm. McNulty said that no more than ten individuals would see the raw data, promising that it will not be available to the public and will ultimately be destroyed. She noted that the data is critical for improving the education of students with disabilities and expressed surprise that more parents do not support the organization’s effort.

The judge has established an opt-out for parents who do not want information about their children released, however.

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