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From The Desk Of Senator Jack Martins: January 31, 2014

Making ‘Targets’ Of Our Children  

No doubt you’ve seen the full page ads that Target recently placed in major newspapers around the nation. The massive retailer was apologizing to the 110 million customers who likely had their credit information stolen in one of the largest security breaches in retail history. If you shopped at Target before Christmas (unnamed members of my family practically lived there) then you may have been affected. By Target’s own admission, the hackers may have stolen credit and debit information from 40 million shoppers and personal data from another 70 million. Under pressure from the U.S. Attorney General’s office, they’re even offering a year of free credit monitoring to all of their customers in the hopes of mitigating the situation. Yet none of that, however well-intentioned, will fix the damage now.

This incident makes it abundantly clear that everyone is vulnerable, even billion-dollar corporations that spend millions of dollars on cyber-security and assign droves of people to the task. Unfortunately, it’s the world we live in, but it should make all of us more vigilant about sharing sensitive data. That’s why I cringe when I think of New York Education Commissioner Dr. John King’s plan to share our children’s personal data.

By way of background, as part of the ever less-popular common core initiative, Dr. King signed an agreement with InBloom, a nonprofit corporation in Atlanta. Their job is to collect student information from school districts and store it in a data cloud, supposedly making educator access easier so that it might be more effectively used for the students’ benefit, while protecting it with hopefully hack-proof encryption. The problem is they can’t and won’t promise us that it’s safe. In fact, their contract specifically states that they cannot be held liable for any data breaches.

And what data it is. The number of fields tops a mind-boggling 400. There are obvious things like attendance, grades, courses, learning disabilities and the like. But The New York Times reports that it includes fields that are, in my opinion, absolutely intrusive like: family relationships (“foster parent” or “father’s significant other”) and enrollment changes (“withdrawn due to illness” or “leaving school as a victim of a serious violent incident”.) There are even disciplinary fields like “perpetrator,” “victim” and “principal watch list.” Controversial labels to be sure. And while a parent may want educators to know these details, why would an unaccountable, third-party, commercial vendor who has no direct contact with their children have it?

You guessed it. Somewhere, somehow, someone is making a buck. InBloom’s plan is to sell access to this enormous stockpile of data to vendors who would then design and market customized education software, apps for smart phones, and even video games to those very same schools, parents and children. They claim that data-driven education will eventually be a help to our children —and that may be so—but at what cost? Is our children’s privacy worth it?  

Parents everywhere, myself included, are up in arms. In fact, of the nine states that signed onto this plan, only three remain: Colorado, Illinois, and unfortunately, New York. Worse still, our state education department has already sent along the data for most of our 2.7 million students. Keep in mind that most local school districts have no privacy policy in place regarding this data sharing or even an opt-out for concerned parents. That’s because the federal law that previously required schools to obtain parents’ permission when sharing data was conveniently changed. They no longer have to alert parents if sharing it with a company with whom they have a contract.  I can’t help but recall the words of our forefather James Madison to be wary of “the abridgment of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power.”

To be sure, districts already share data for very specific tasks but in no way should that be interpreted as blanket authorization to turn such specific data over to a private vendor. It’s wrong. As I’ve told my daughters time and again—once something is posted online, it’s out there forever, period.

Unfortunately, nowhere in this process do we, as parents, have a voice. Commissioner King’s anemic response was to suspend implementation of the program until March. This does nothing to address our privacy concerns but is a disingenuous attempt to delay action with the hope that it will all blow over. It won’t.

We are charged with protecting the welfare of our children and we will. That’s why I’m co-sponsoring a bill in the Senate that will make it illegal for New York school districts to share this data without first obtaining parental consent. I encourage you to stay informed and engaged and together we’ll prevent our kids from becoming the next “Target.”

News

There’s a lot you can do in 99 minutes. You could cook dinner, play a non-stop soccer game, watch a romantic comedy or hang out with Odysseus, Achilles and Hercules. If you chose the last option, Hicksville High School’s upcoming theatre production of The Iliad, The Odyssey, and All of Greek Mythology in 99 Minutes or Less  is the place for you.

The mouthful of a title says it all. The cast will take on over 80 characters as they speed through all of Greek mythology, including popular tales such as The Iliad and The Odyssey, in a little over an hour and a half.

Due to what appears to be a colossal error on the part of the Nassau County Assessor’s office, or perhaps an errant interpretation of state law, more than 600 military veterans and Gold Star families in Hicksville will have to wait for their tax break until next year.

Hicksville is one of several local school districts that recently approved resolutions extending the exemption to local veterans, even though budgets and Albany’s tax cap make it a tough choice. On Feb. 26, with a contingency of veterans in the audience, the board voted to provide a school tax exemption for veterans living in the district, starting with the 2014-15 school year.


Sports

Vito Sciascia was recently named Hicksville Soccer Club’s Volunteer of the Year at the 2014 Long Island Junior Soccer League 2014 Kick-off Convention.

Sciascia started coaching travel soccer in 1998 for a boys team, the Flash, who later changed their names to the Muddogs. He could always be found at various sporting fields trying to recruit new soccer players. He would make each of these boys feel important and there was always room for another player. He tried to never turn a child away and when other coaches were having trouble with a boy he would take them on his team, no one was ever too much for him. Sciascia found the good in all those boys and they in return respected him. He took them to many tournaments and solicited enough sponsorship so that it was never a financial burden on their families.

Cantiague Park Senior Men’s Golf League had its first tournament on Thursday April 4. Twenty golfers came out on on a crisp but sunny morning. Charlie Hong was the only man to score under a 40, with a 38 and won for low overall score. Jim O’ Brien  scored a 41, and won low overall net in a tie-breaker with Mike Guerriero.

Competition on the nine-hole course is divided into two divisions. Flight A is for players with a handicap of 13 or lower. Flight B is for players with a handicap of 14 or more. The league is a 100 percent handicap league. Any man 55 years or older is eligible for membership. We have many openings for this year, and you can sign up anytime throughout the the season.


Calendar

American Legion Meeting

April 21

HS Theater in the Round

April 24-26

Science Fair

April 26



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