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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intrusive like: family relationships (“foster parent” or “father’s significant other”) and enrollment changes (“withdrawn due to illness” or “leaving school as a victim of a serious violent incident”.)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

A group of like-minded local residents banded together and saved more than 200 area trees from the chopping block — for now.

A state judge ordered Nassau County and the Department of Public Works to stop cutting down trees along South Oyster Bay Road, granting a temporary restraining order to a group of residents spearheading an effort to save the trees.

State Supreme Court Judge Antonio Brandveen scheduled a hearing on Thursday, Oct. 16 for the county to address complaints from residents, in particular a group called Operation STOMP (Save Trees Over More Pavement) founded by Hicksville native Tanya Lukasik.The Public Works department had planned to removed more than 200 30-foot trees in communities ranging from Plainview, Bethpage, Hicksville and Syosset.

For the past 16 years, Lucia Simon has walked from her home in Hicksville to her job at the Hicksville Public Library. She enjoys her job as a librarian and says that the staff has become like family to her. But for the past three years, Simon and 56 fellow co-workers have been frustrated at what she says is the library’s board refusal to negotiate a fair contract.  

“We have had no contract in three years. They refuse to bargain with us. Every time they come back to us it’s not fair,” says Simon.

However, the board of trustees disagree, saying that it has made a “fair offer.”


Sports

The Girls Varsity soccer team, in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, wore pink uniforms and pink socks in their game on Oct. 8 against MacArthur whom they defeated 1-0. The girls and boys soccer programs at Hicksville High School are selling pink ribbon car magnets with a soccer ball and HHS on it with the words “Kick Cancer” on the ribbon. All the money raised will go to the Sarah Grace Foundation, which is a local foundation trying to beat pediatric cancer. The players plan to raise $1,000 for this organization

— From Hicksville High School

Hicksville native progressing through Mets system

The Mets minor league system is enjoying a rare period of prosperity. For years, it was barren due to trading off high-ceiling players for major leaguers, or neglecting the draft in favor of the free agent market. Since General Manager Sandy Alderson took over, the organization has reversed course and put a much greater emphasis on player development. During his second-to-last season, however, former GM Omar Minaya took a chance and drafted a local catcher, Cam Maron, out of Hicksville High School in the 34th round.


Calendar

Spooktacular Halloween

October 17

Fall Festival

October 18

Veterans Casework Seminar

October 21



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