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Thursday, April 2, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Shea says student-tracking bill poses terror risk to military families

By Chad Sokol Murrow News Service

OLYMPIA – Terrorists could use data from school report cards to track American soldiers and their families if a bill that passed the House on Monday becomes law, a Spokane Valley legislator warned.

Rep. Matt Shea, R-Spokane Valley, argued against the legislation to revise how the state monitors academic progress in grades K-12, to add a focus on children from military families. That includes students’ grades, schedules, enrollment and program participation.

The bill passed 64-33, but not before Shea issued a warning:

“Consolidating all of this information into one place is going to make a huge target for terrorist organizations around the world, particularly at a time when a lot of those terrorists are now not only targeting U.S. troops but intentionally targeting their families back here in the United States.”

School districts now report students’ academic progress to the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction. The information is categorized by age, race or ethnicity, gender and other demographic details. It is used for gathering statistics and monitoring the effectiveness of schools in the state.

Students’ identities are not accessible to the public under state and federal law, the OSPI website says.

The bill would add a category for children who have a parent or guardian on active or reserve military duty. Sponsored by Rep. Dick Muri, R-Steilacoom, it aims to generate data on military students that can be used to improve educational programs.

Supporters from the Department of Defense and the Veterans Legislative Coalition told the House Education Committee at a recent hearing the state needs a way to provide for military students, who move frequently and have some specific academic needs. They said 13 states have similar laws.

The bill also would approve a study for military children with special needs, and require school districts to categorize data on some students by their home countries or regions when reporting academic progress. That information would be used to recognize Washington’s largest minority groups.

The bill now goes to the Senate, where it could get a hearing in the next few weeks.

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