Too much personal student info available, teacher warns

When Prince George teacher Glen Thielmann logged in to print off his class list Tuesday morning, the internal teacher software - MyEducationBC - brought up 64-pages worth of personal student information.

"It contained student numbers, birth dates, medical notes, special education designations and aboriginal identification," said Thielmann in a message of the list that included graduated students.

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"This kind of information is often available to us on a "your class" basis but not as a whole set, and not going back a number of years."

The high school teacher said district staff resolved the matter shortly, but that glitch speaks to a larger problem with the province's new $95 million data management system that replaced BCeSIS, the previous system.

School District 57 superintendent Brian Pepper said the district was aware of the issue.

"Both the Ministry of Education and the service provider have been informed and are investigating the circumstances around the case," said Pepper in a statement.

In a separate release, the Ministry of Education said "we are continuing to investigate these specific circumstances. There are no further updates since (Tuesday). We have had no other reports of similar issues anywhere in the province."

Pepper said he did not know of any other cases in the district like Thielmann's, but noted MyEdBC "complies with all requirements outlined in the freedom of information and protection of privacy legislation.

"Thorough privacy impact assessments were completed and that work was reviewed by both the office of the chief info officer and the office of the privacy commissioner."

But that process wasn't thorough enough to make the system ready, leading to cases of dropped records, timetable mix-ups and yearly count problems among other hangups, Thielmann said.

"I think the real story, though, is that B.C. schools are dealing with a flawed data management system that should have been ready to go after years of development and testing," he said.

"Office staff and administration have had to work very hard (and often after hours) in order to work around these issues or even do tasks manually that were supposed to be automated.

"The amount of record-keeping and data management in today's schools is extraordinary, and MyEdBC pushes it to a new level. Parents and the public should be concerned about the amount of data being collected, how long it is being stored, and what it is being used for."

These were among the "broader" concerns raised by British Columbia Teachers' Federation president Jim Iker Tuesday, after the Ministry of Education said it lost a hard-drive with records on 3.4 million people.

"(W)ith MyEducationBC, the government wants to expand the data collected and the number of people with access to it," Iker said in the statement that criticized the centralization and level of data collection. "We have huge concerns about that. Why is the data collected? How is it secured? When is it destroyed? At what point do students get the right to be forgotten?"

The Prince George District Teachers' Association discussed data collection with Prince George parents last year.

"I remember speaking to (District Parent Advisory Council) about the concern we had with student data. How much is being gathered... about the security of data and the amount of data and who has access to that data," said Richard Giroday, president of PGDTA.

While Giroday couldn't speak to specific problems with MyEdBC, he said there have been many concerns.

"MyEdBC is much like BCeSIS and there are some serious start-up problems."

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