Matthew Renda
Special to the Bonanza

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May 25, 2014
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Price tag for Lake Tahoe dad to see data on his children: $10K (w/ video)

INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. — Lake Tahoe resident John Eppolito recently garnered national headlines for revealing he was told he would have to pay roughly $10,000 to retrieve data stored by the state relating to his children.

Eppolito, a father of four students, two of whom are enrolled in the Washoe County School District, said he is concerned Common Core will allow for unprecedented collection of data on students — and how that data could be shared with others.

“The data is compiled and stored and shared with the world,” he said.

Eppolito’s plight was first reported by Perry Chiaramonte on May 13 on FoxNews.com in a story that shared the Incline Village real estate agent’s concern with Nevada’s recent decision to join a multi-state consortium that shares students’ data.

“The problem is that I can’t stop them from collecting the data,” Eppolito said in the story, which reported a final price tag of $10,194. “I just wanted to know what it (collected data) was. It almost seems impossible. Certainly $10,000 is enough reason to prevent a parent from getting the data.”

The Silver State has spent an estimated $10 million in its seven-year-old System of Accountability Information in Nevada, known as SAIN, according to the report. Data from county school systems is uploaded nightly to a database, and, under the new arrangement, potentially shared with other counties and states.

In a recent interview with the Bonanza, Judy Osgood, public information officer with the Nevada Department of Education, said the data could only be shared with entities as spelled out in the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act, a law that protects the privacy of student education records.

The law grants certain rights of access to parents when their child is under 18; these rights are then transferred to children when they graduate into adulthood.

Nevertheless, Osgood said Eppolito’s insistence on obtaining data and the scrutiny that’s followed — the Fox News report and an accompanying on-air interview with Eppolito have drawn thousands of comments and made the rounds among social media — has prompted the agency to develop a strict written policy regarding data privacy.

“It helped the department focus on some things,” she said. “Not that we’ve been doing things improperly, we just didn’t have a good updated privacy policy.”

The department’s “Information Security and Privacy Policy” is available on the front page of its website, where it spells out how it will “protect student privacy and ensure data security and confidentiality.”

Regarding the $10,000, Osgood said the reason it would take such an amount of money for four children is because the way the data operates is by aggregating information to supply big-picture statistics relating to subjects like demographics, graduation rates and testing.

“There is no program to specialize or personalize data,” Osgood said.

On Eppolito’s insistence, the state attempted to formulate the cost of building a computer code, which would run a new application to retrieve the data he was requesting.

“It would take two or three weeks of solid programming time,” Osgood said.

Further, NDE does not keep legal records relating to who is the appropriate guardian of a given child, as those records are maintained at the school district level.

That means even if the department could obtain the information Eppolito requested, it would be legally constrained in releasing it to him, Osgood said.

“We do not obtain guardianship information or custody information,” she said.

Eppolito maintains he has a right to data collected about his children.

“Everybody else gets to see it, why can’t I?” he said.

— Matthew Renda is a freelance reporter and a former staff writer for the North Lake Tahoe Bonanza.

“It almost seems impossible. Certainly $10,000 is enough reason to prevent a parent from getting the data.”
John Eppolito


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Tahoe Daily Tribune Updated May 29, 2014 07:39PM Published May 25, 2014 02:48PM Copyright 2014 Tahoe Daily Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.