Who's watching over schoolkids online?
I’m a parent of Boulder Valley School District students. Ever since my third son was marketed and encouraged to play online games at school involving suicide, homicide and mutilation, I’ve been advocating for BVSD to adopt common-sense policies for classroom technology use to support education and learning.
The more I have learned from my conversations about classroom technology abuses, the more concerned I’ve become. I’m concerned about what my kids are watching online at school and who is watching my kids online. I recently discovered that to register my child for kindergarten in BVSD, I had to consent to BVSD sharing my child’s data with vendors like Google. BVSD is not able to tell parents which companies were given access to their children's data nor what data has been provided to each vendor, as the district is not required to track this information under state and federal law.
In light of recent privacy breaches, I’m shocked by this nonchalant attitude about student data privacy. Amazon, Google and Facebook are among the growing list of companies who exposed users’ data to external parties. In the absence of policy, BVSD teachers have begun using Amazon Alexa devices in the classroom. Amazon Ring doorbells in the U.S. shared photos with Amazon employees in Ukraine. Location services is enabled on BVSD classroom Chromebooks, and Google was found to track locations of Android phone users who turned off location services. Facebook monetizes users’ information by allowing outside companies access to users’ private Facebook messages.
As new technologies emerge and tech companies offer more services in the classroom, it is more important than ever to protect students’ right to data privacy. We need to keep Google, Amazon and Facebook from preying on students’ personal information in school. We must raise our voices to protect our children.
A safe space for teens
CBS News just highlighted the anti-bullying program instituted by Parkview Elementary in Lamar, which has reduced incidents by 23 percent. It’s funded by taxes from the sale of marijuana. Money well spent.
Bullying statistics are frightening. One out of every 10 students drops out of school because of bullying. An astounding 90 percent of 4th- through 8th-graders are victims. Almost half of our nation’s students have received intimidating or threatening messages online.
I helped develop a video for a college grant proposal for scholarships for seniors attending Colorado’s alternative high schools. Five students featured in the video explained why they were attending the alternative Hidden Lake High School in Westminster. I was overcome by what I was hearing. Tears came to my eyes.
All five had been so bullied that they under-performed academically or stopped attending school. What instigated the bullying? They were different. One was an unwed, teen mom. Another was shy. Another spoke poor English. One attempted suicide.
Alternative schools are one of Colorado’s best kept secrets; there are 93 throughout Colorado for at-risk students of all grade levels. Hidden Lake’s principal, James Steward, and teachers create a safe space for teens. It’s okay to be different. The high school offers innovative, non-traditional approaches that make learning more engaging, emphasizing creativity and interaction.
The students explained how they had found success at Hidden Lake. They talked about giving back after graduating — teaching English as a second language, teaching sign language and giving a voice to the deaf, building things, making a difference.
More schools must institute anti-bully programs so our students can thrive without fear. In the video, the Hidden Lake students pleaded, “Please, don’t write me off.” Please don’t! Let’s build a better Colorado for our children.
Front Range Community College Foundation
Send us your feedback: opinion@ColoradoPolitics.com