Following a year of high-profile national concerns about individual privacy, some Oak Park Elementary District 97 parents are concerned about their children’s privacy when using district-issued iPad Minis.
Jim Peterson told the D97 board Tuesday he felt a requirement by Apple for students to agree to allow the Cupertino-Calif.-based company to track information possibly violated the federal Family and Educational Rights and Privacy Act and the Online Privacy Protection Act.
“I don’t want my son’s information tracked,” the Washington Irving Elementary School parent said. “I feel those laws are in place for a reason. I don’t want to have to sign away my child’s rights under those acts just for my child to get access under the privacy act.”
The iPad Minis, part of the district’s $1.3 million 1:1 Technology Initiative, were distributed to teachers two years ago, and to fourth- and fifth-graders last year. They will be distributed to students at all grade levels starting with the 2014-15 school year.
In addition to the legal question about whether children really can give consent, Peterson said he was worried about any technologies that can collect and save student work, including Google Docs.
“Children write awesome papers in school but reveal a lot of information about themselves,” he said.
Peterson admitted he also is asked to waive his rights when using technology, but he does so as an adult.
“I’ve done my deal with the devil and use those tools,” he said.
Michael Arensdorf, D97’s director of technology, said a small number of parents throughout the district have expressed similar concerns about student privacy when it comes to the use of the iPad Minis.
“We want to have that open line and collaboration with them in the education process as much as we can,” he said.
The district embarked on the 1:1 program to improve educational equity among students by giving all an opportunity to learn using technology, Arensdorf said. In addition, he said, the iPad Minis enhance student creativity.
“We found the iPad was the one that served our goals. This was the tool that enabled that process the best,” he said.
The district for many years has used technology, from desktop computers, to laptops and netbooks. Arensdorf said the district has guidelines in regard to privacy and student use and works with technology vendors to ensure they also have similar guidelines in place.
“We’ve continued to reach out to these groups, too, to address these concerns that we’re hearing,” he said.
Parents do have the option of opting out of providing individual IDs, Arensdorf said. In those instances, students may be issued a shared classroom identification.
“With that, you lose benefits in the Apple device,” he said.
For instance, information can’t be backed up on another device or in a cloud, and all information is shared among the students, which also means it isn’t really private.