Spying on Students

Back to June 2015 Ed Reporter

Spying on Students

Even as parents become increasingly worried about their children’s personal security and privacy, spying on students is increasing. States who signed on to use Common Core standards must also participate in federally mandated collection of longitudinal data that is personally identifiable to individual students. This “permanent record” puts everyone one step closer to being tracked in the new cradle-to-grave social order. The Common Core College and Career standards demand tracking from the first day that children begin school.

spyingCybersleuths are scanning students’ posts on social media sites and their emails during this spring’s standardized test-taking season. Private security companies watch for any leak of test questions.

Schools and colleges also monitor students, looking for anything from negative comments about school employees, to bullying, or threats to harm themselves or someone else.

Students use their actual names and post personal information, such as where they live and attend school, on Facebook and Twitter. But even when students try to be anonymous, surveillance software is being used to figure out which student is posting by use of process of elimination among groups of friends, by piecing together mentions of class schedules, and other methods.

“School districts and colleges across the nation are hiring private companies to monitor students’ online activity, down to individual keystrokes, to scan their emails for objectionable content, and to scrutinize their public posts on Twitter, Facebook, Vine, Instagram, and other popular sites,” according to Politico.

It is important that students don’t cheat on standardized tests. Alerting test takers in advance about questions constitutes cheating. But how far can schools go? Hiring outside companies to spy on students is a slippery slope. Scanning emails to look for “objectionable content,” going as far as monitoring websites students visit, and other tracking may have gone too far.

Some states are trying to protect students by enacting laws. Even the American Federation of Teachers union asks that Pearson Education “stop spying on our students.” But laws enacted and pending in California, Illinois, Michigan, Utah, New York, and Maryland would reportedly only protect students when they post anonymously. Parents must be extra vigilant about what children post publicly and be aware that “big brother” may be watching and recording. (Politico.com, 3-21-15)