Blackboard Connect Tiptxt is an anonymous reporting tool which allows students to report bullying, mental health issues and suspicious activity in a, “safe and confidential way” 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. South Washington County School District 833 is now utilizing the anonymous reporting tool in schools throughout the district in response to the passage of the Safe and Supportive Minnesota Schools Act and they are not alone.
Blackboard Connect is integrated with Pearson Books, the same company that will make billions of dollars from the nationalized curriculum known as Common Core or World’s Best Work Force. When big business colludes with big government and big education, what could possibly go wrong? What looks good at first glance is far more onerous when one connects the dots between what is occurring at the local, state and federal level.
Video on how to text a tip via a designated tip-line
Last year, the state of Minnesota passed the “Safe and Supportive Schools Act”; a bill meant to end bullying and create a school utopia across the state. HF826 was drafted by Representative Jim Davnie in the House along with companion bill SF783 authored by Scott Dibble in the Senate in response to a “bullying crisis” justified by anonymous student surveys supplied by special interest groups. Local legislative cheerleaders for HF826 included Senators Susan Kent and Katie Sieben. The coming of the information age has provided us with anonymous reporting aps and the junk research and corresponding statistical findings; all with underlying motives. This overreaction to a survey driven crisis will prove detrimental to students, schools and districts statewide.
In the news release, “Settingthe Record Straight on Minnesota’s Safe and Supportive Schools Act”, Senator John Hofman states, “A child should never have to feel intimidated or harassed while they are trying to learn.” It has never been okay to harass, intimidate or torment another student; but does this brilliantly titled legislation hide its true motive?
The daunting regulations and reporting requirements of this law adversely affects school districts across the state. A new bureaucracy, the “Safety Technical Assistance Center” has been created within the MN Department of Education to monitor bullying reports. The center serves as a data collection warehouse and will monitor district compliance. Unfortunately, this newly created government monstrosity will feed student data into state and federal data bases. Risks to children include a potential lifetime record as a bully, guilt based on perception, anonymous reporting by any accuser and pervasive surveillance approaches. The nebulous definitions of bullying will cause undue shaming and remediation; all without requiring parental consent.
The state of Minnesota currently has 332 school districts, 1,980 schools and approximately 826,000 students. Financial burdens on these districts and taxpayers will increase due to broadening reporting definitions that include such things as perceived marital status, gender identity, gender expression and a host of other “protected classifications.” Before the passage of The Safe and Supportive Schools Act, incident records at the Minnesota Department of Education, Disciplinary Incidents Reporting System (DIRS) indicate 1,120 cases of reported bullying for the 2011-2012 school year. Under the new, broadened reporting definitions, bullying reports are expected to skyrocket across the state to as many as 13,381 reports generated per year. All reports will require investigation with possible discipline or re-education which will require increased staff and budgets in districts across Minnesota.
In addition, districts are required to provide training on prohibited conduct to students, teachers, bus drivers, cafeteria worker, custodians, athletic coaches, extracurricular activities advisers, paraprofessionals, parent and community volunteers; to name just a few.
Remediation or re-education of your child by district staff does not require parental notification. Consequences for bullying behaviors may include restorative practices, counseling and class transfer. Consequences may also include remediation, exclusion, suspension, expulsion, termination or discharge. Ongoing observation and shaming of students are potentially harsh for a one-time event and may ultimately affect a student’s ability to receive scholarships, negatively impact healthcare costs, affect job applications and military service.
The incident record generated by an anonymous report is fed into the Safety Technical Assistance Center followed by the MN Disciplinary Incident Reporting System (DIRS). DIRS is a reporting system that enables the MN Department of Education to comply with state and federal reporting requirements. Reporting categories within DIRS include incidents that occur off campus and outside school hours. DIRS combines with MARSS (Minnesota Automated Reporting Student System) via the student identification number to build a complete profile of each student in the state. MARSS feeds into federal data bases at the Department of Education, Department of Justice, Health andHuman Services and Department of Homeland Security.
The rights of your child and violation of Federal laws like FERPA ( Family Education Rights and Privacy Act) are not addressed in the Safe and Supportive Schools Act, leaving school districts vulnerable to lawsuits when private information from bullying reports are fed into federal and state data bases. Minnesota must consider drafting legislation to safeguard privacy of the sensitive, personal information and allows parents access to student data at no cost. Issues with data privacy and what information is captured, disseminated and maintained may be used in the future to brand reported students as a bully for life
The desire to make things better has been transformed into destructive legislation that violates privacy of our children from cradle to grave by collecting records in an ongoing daily basis. The fantasy of school utopia and safety of our children is an illusion. It’s time for families to reconsider where and how children are educated. The public school system is broken beyond repair and parents need to take action to protect their family.