With the ever-changing role of technology at the forefront of educators minds, a new privacy concern regarding student-tracking technology has prompted one local school district to investigate further.
Denison Independent School District school board tabled an amendment to its school policy that would limit the usage of what Denison ISD Assistant Superintendent David Kirkbride called “listen-in” devices.
Kirkbride said these devices could be a cell phone app or other type of device that allows a parent to listen to, and potentially record, a students interactions. The district has been advised to update its policies on these devices to protect student privacy.
“Devices with listen-in and student tracking capabilities are becoming more common to students and parents,” Kirkbride said. “The use of listen-in devices without authorization presents a concern for student privacy and confidentiality. For students to come into a classroom setting for example and have a listen-in device that is running during class time we have students who have specialized needs that are often referenced made during class period.It opens up all of that to whoever is listening in wherever they may be. That is the confidentiality issue.”
During the discussion phase of the recent school board meeting, board member Bob Rhoden asked for clarity on the implications of parents using such devices and then suggested tabling the discussion for the next meeting when more information would be provided.
“Do other parents know their kids could be potentially listened in on?” Rhoden asked. “We’re getting into discussions. On this one I want to make sure we know what we’re approving before we vote. If I have a student sitting in a classroom and another student has a listen-in device, what are my students rights? I don’t know if you have an answer to that.”
Board member Becky Russell asked if it would include cell phones, and Kirkbride said it would not be limited to cell phones but that those devices do have the capabilities to be used in this capacity.
“There is already a policy in place that says a student can’t record a conversation without authorization,” Kirkbride said. “This is more specific to these listen-in devices, these tracking devices that parents can have where a student, it is an app where the parents can sit wherever they are and listen to everything that is going on around the student.”
Kirkbride said the policy would allow for parents to request for authorization. The administration would determine if the situation was justified.
Kirkbride said the topic came up when an unrelated conversation with the district’s attorney prompted him to consider updating the policy. He said he spoke with the district’s TASB consultant who advised making updates to the policy to avoid any confidentiality conflicts.
“Having a device in a classroom setting that is recording what all is going on presents privacy issues,” Kirkbride said. “You can have a conversation between a student and a teacher and if a device is in the vicinity and it captures that conversation that could be a clear violation of privacy and confidentiality.”
What are your thoughts about parents being allowed to record their children’s conversations while in school? Let reporter Richard A. Todd know by email at Rtodd@HeraldDemocrat.com. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter @RichardAToddHD.