Nevada student data privacy challenged in constitutional petition drive
November 6, 2015
A group headed by Sharron Angle, Sen. Don Gustavson and education activist John Eppolito on Thursday urged support for a constitutional amendment to restrict access to public school student data.
They filed the petition in September. Angle, a longtime conservative activist and candidate, said they are "very concerned about the information being collected at school."
Eppolito said the state is now collecting hundreds of types of information about K-12 students including their behavior, family life, social and extracurricular activities, political interests and such things as whether they have ever had a drug problem, abortion or other issue.
And the group charged too little is being done to keep information confidential.
“Now personal information has to be shared with almost anybody who asks.”John EppolitoEducation activist
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Asked if the state is violating federal legal restrictions banning the release of personally identifiable information on students, Gustavson said, "apparently they are."
Eppolito said that was the federal law until a year ago but it has been changed. He charged hackers and a long list of people and data-mining companies can now get detailed information on students and their families — without parental consent.
"Now personal information has to be shared with almost anybody who asks," he said.
Virginia Starrett, a retired professor who taught at WNC and in the California State university system, said the state constitutional amendment is needed to protect that information.
Angle said the group waited until now to make sure there were no legal challenges to the petition to start collecting signatures, but conceded they have collected only a few at this point.
To get it on the ballot, they will need signatures from at least 55,234 registered Nevada voters — including at least 13,809 in each of Nevada's four petition districts — the state's congressional districts.
Angle said that is a growing challenge because lawmakers have repeatedly passed petition rules "designed to keep people out of the process." She said rules such as the minimum number of names in each congressional district are meant to prevent petitions from reaching the ballot.