KEYE TV in Austin ran a story tonight on a subject I have previously posted about here and here -- the collection of kindergarten student's personal identification information by an outside vendor for "research" purposes.
Texas students at risk for identity theft
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School districts are turning over social security information, birth dates and addresses, and the Texas Education Agency says it doesn't need your permission.
For parents like Amanda Clark, a busy mom, the last thing she wants to worry about is who has her five-year-old’s personal information.
"I think that's a bad idea,” Clark said. “Personally I don't want any of my children's information available to anybody."
But by next month, the Texas Education Agency wants every kindergartner to be on-line in a state wide database, which will include test scores, their name, social security number, birth date, parents’ names and address.
If computer hackers were to get this information, it's all they'll need for identity theft.
"One of the options for parents is to request that their school district not use their child's social security number as their student ID and they may request that the school district assign a different unique number to their child to be used as their student ID," Assoc. Director of the Texas Education Agency Gina Day said.
Day tells us the TEA needs the information to track how well kindergartners are doing in reading and social skills. She says the social security numbers won't be in the system long.
"It’s used only for the initial upload into the system, then the system assigns every child a unique identifier that's different from the social security number, then that social security number is destroyed and no longer a part of the system and no longer held in the system after that," said Day.
Day says school districts are required to turn over reading scores. All the information will be given to a company that works out of Arlington.
"We take special precautions to prevent breaches or access to the data other than authorized users," said Steve Montgomery of Oz Systems.
Oz systems will have access to students’ social security numbers, but Montgomery says parents have nothing to worry about.
“It's highly protected and like I said it's very limited on who accesses it and it's only the folks who are doing the research who can access it,” he said.
If someone were to steal a kindergartner's identity, Georgetown superintendent Abbe Boring said it could be years before parents found out.
"Certainly with having literally tens of thousands of students’ information on the system it is something that is being taken very seriously,” Boring said. “No system is foolproof, but I do believe the state has taken extraordinary efforts to make sure it is secure as possible."
Kyle Ward, with the state's Parent Teacher Association, agrees.
"At this point there's no evidence that there should be concern of a breach. If that were to ever be the case, certainly we would want that address immediately,” Ward said.
The TEA says it doesn't need permission to release your child’s social security number because of a provision in the Texas Education Code. But as a parent, you can ask your child's school not to give out directory information. That's the child's name, address, birth date, grade level or telephone number. If you think you're child's identity has been stolen, contact the police and keep a copy of that report in your files.