Oh, All the Places Your Data Will Go! NFL Funding and USDA Lunches

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Oh, All the Places Your Data Will Go!  NFL Funding and USDA Lunches

By Anne Taylor

The federally funded school lunch program and the National Football League (NFL) are in a league of their own to provide your school with…a new playground!  But at what cost?

Earlier I wrote a piece School Playgrounds for Hire:  What Happened to Free Play at School and Is Adult-Directed Recess Stifling Childhood Creativity?” on the very subject of the lack of recess in our schools and how third party companies are up for hire on directing adult driven play.

About a year ago, a parent brought to my attention a program called “Fuel Up To Play 60.”  I was initially intrigued that the National Football League was involved in offering playground equipment to help schools in need.  But what I later found out from this parent, sadly turned from hopeful to the infringement on parental rights and yet another survey taken in school and on regular classroom time.

Here’s what I learned about how Fuel Up To Play 60 and what the U.S. Federally Funded Food Program is really after.  It’s obvious:  Your child’s data.

The starting line-up begins through the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act which was championed by First Lady Michelle Obama and signed by President Obama.  Our U.S. Department of Agriculture made the first major changes in school meals in 15 years, with the hope of raising a “healthier generation of children” according to the Fuel Up to Play 60 website.

But do these reforms reflect what’s right for children’s health in a way that’s achievable in schools across the nation as Fuel Up to Play 60 claims?

Many schools here and across the U.S. received scathing responses on the First Lady’s healthy eating agenda after kids literally started dumping their food in school lunch cafeterias, even posting on social media – so much so that some poked fun at starting composting a class with all the large quantities of uneaten food.  And by the way, that was your federal dollars that ended up in the trash bin in the name of healthy eating!

I have to say, it was the federal food program that received the highest number of reads, comments and shares among Common Core groups!

That being said, in our state of Minnesota, several districts discontinued the federal food program after seeing their money go to the dumpster.  Wayzata and Prior Lake schools found success in their opt-out while boosting athlete’s calories of up to 1000 along with second and third helpings.  Sadly, this doesn’t help other districts who rely on federal food funding as some districts, such as St. Paul, have up to 80% of its students on free and reduced meals according to a recent news update earlier this month.

If food is so important, why is it that we are a society so reliant upon the need for federal funding that literally ends up in the trash?  Lunch happens to be the MOST important aspect of a child’s day in school.  For some, this may be the ONLY meal they get.  What makes this NLF program so intriguing is that the program punts the ploy to create healthy standards, while dangling a carrot for school playgrounds for districts in need (no pun intended).

From approximately 2010-2014 schools in Minneapolis, St. Paul, Anoka, Hopkins and Burnsville including Immaculate Conception, St. John and St. Paul Lutheran schools received NFL playground awards.   By 2015 Osseo, Robbinsdale, Rochester and Rosemount all took a considerable amount of funding for its playground equipment.  On the receiving end, if your school was listed as a participating recipient, your school would have received approximately $4,000 towards new playground equipment in exchange for your child’s information PLUS many, many stipulations thwarted by Fuel Up to Play 60. 

Read the playbook “rules” on personally identifiable information on coaches and referees (ie: teachers or program advisors) to view a list of stipulations on information gathered about your child and how Fuel Up to Play 60 WILL SHARE personally identifiable information including information labeled “Full Wellness Investigation” with the intent of highlighting nutrition services, physical education, as well as family and community information found in your school.

Parents:  If your school made the list, did you know about the survey conducted in school by Fuel Up to Play 60?  Did you know that Fuel Up to Play 60 “…may also keep records of non-personally identifiable or aggregate data, such as the number of hits a Web page receives, or the IP address of the computers accessing the site. We do not link this data with any Personally Identifiable Information (as defined below). Third parties that help us administer the website may have confidential access to this aggregate data.” Read Fuel Up to Play 60 full privacy policy disclosure here.

As one parent pointed out, “Their privacy policy states… “We do not share personally identifiable information with third parties except on a confidential and secure basis to those parties that help us administer our website or related activities.” You have to assume that “related activities” covers them in sharing the data with any of the hundreds of sub groups.”

After thorough research, that parent also noted “if you scroll through the site you find an endless list of foundations and agencies that are part of the program.  Each section of the program comes from a different foundation or group, and if you look a few of those, they are made up of another list of groups.  If you look at these groups lists of partners, you see the same groups listed over and over. It all seems like a shell game where they all help each other get more funding.  You could spend weeks trying to find out all the places this data could go.”

How’s that for a field goal?  Companies accessing data on your children for a mere $4,000 in playground equipment.  In the scheme of things Fuel Up to Play 60 is about monetary rewards for various activities while stealing you and your child’s information.

FYI:  If your school was one that received awards with children under age 13, there are strict regulations on surveys taken of minors from 3rd party collectors that fall under COPPA laws triggering a FTC (Federal Trade Commission) investigation for information collected on minors without adult consent.

With school issued iPads and Chromebooks increasing in our schools since 2010, and with the latest FERPA gut of 2012, again, did you give your child permission to the NFL to sell your child’s sole?  If so, how on earth is this keeping kids healthy in our schools under the same federal food stipulations in our schools?





MN Student Survey Update: What’s New? “Passive Consent” Disclosure

MN Student Survey Update:  What’s new?  “Passive Consent” Disclosure

Parents are taking note of this year’s 2016 opt-out forms for the Minnesota
Student Health Survey and finding that the disclosure is different than in previous years.   So what’s new?

The headline “Passive Consent”.   Many parents continue to express that these kinds of
surveys deserve an “opt-in” notice – NOT an “opt-out.”  Here’s a little 101
on Passive Consent.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
> ,  “Terms such as “passive” or “implied” consent are not
referenced in the HHS regulations.”  In other words, passive consent is a process in
which consent or parental permission requirements have been altered or
waived, or for which the requirement to document consent or parental
permission has been waived
, according to the website.  In education, results
of these kinds of surveys are often used as information to spur public
outreach thus creating programs to promote and enhance public awareness.

According to the Minnesota Department of Education
<http://education.state.mn.us/MDE/StuSuc/SafeSch/MNStudentSurvey/>  website,
the 2013 Minnesota Student Survey “…was administered statewide in the
first half of 2013 to public school students in grades 5, 8, 9 and 11.   All
public school districts in Minnesota were invited to participate.   Of the 334
public operating districts, 280 agreed to participate (84 percent of public
operating school districts).” 
Your school district had a choice NOT to participate!

“Public school student participation was voluntary…”
  Period.  So is this survey
truly voluntary when the state gives a “passive consent” notice in name of
education and public awareness?  Teachers are required to tell students they
do not have to take the survey.   This further adds to peer pressure on
minors to take a survey without parental permission nor consent.   DO you
feel its right to introduce probing topics that are MEANT to take place at
home?   View the survey, use the questions as things you can answer as a
family in the PRIVACY of your own home.   NOT in a school environment.

“…and surveys were anonymous.”
Have you had a credit card breach in recent years?  Heard of Data breaches
in schools
> ?   Did you know that an audit in 2013 revealed our own MN Department of
Education “lacked “adequate internal controls”
>  and comprehensive security plans and had
failed to document where private data was held or the internal controls
needed to secure it.”

“Across the state, approximately 66 percent of fifth graders, 71 percent of
eighth graders, 69 percent of ninth graders and 62 percent of eleventh
graders participated in the 2013 Minnesota Student Health Survey.   Overall participation across the four
grades was approximately 67 percent of total enrollment.”
How about we get that number down to 50% student participation?  35%
Participation?  ZERO?  It’s only possible if parents sign the opt-out form!
Is your child 18 and in high school?  Tell them they are NOT required to
take the survey and use the opportunity to share with them the value of
protecting THEIR personal privacy.

After reading the questions for all the grades, do you think it’s right for
students to waste an entire hour of precious school time on a survey?  Maybe
you don’t have children in school, but you DO pay taxes.  Do you think your
tax dollars should be used for questions that TRULY BELONG TO PARENTS,
CHILDREN AND THEIR FAMILES?  If you feel standardized testing is an issue,
this is a far worse tool by probing into the lives of families AND minors on
issues that have ZERO business in our schools while taking up precious
classroom time.  Surveys like this have long been happening in this state
and across the country.  It’s time to take a stand and STOP the surveying of
our children through passive consent!

The Minnesota Student Health Survey is Here!

Minnesota Student Health Survey 2016 is HERE!                                 

by Anne Taylor

This is a repost of Anne’s article from last week.  For your perusal, the link to the 2016 Minnesota Student Health Survey is copied into the bottom of this article.

Parents are reporting that the Minnesota Student Health survey is here!  According to the MN DOE the survey will take place anywhere from January thru May of 2016.  A note that late fall of 2015 was the cut-off for districts to decide if they wanted to distribute the annual survey to its students in 2016.  Contact your school TODAY to see if/when your school will participate in the survey.

So what is it, what do you need to know, and what are your parental rights…

  • The Minnesota Student Health Survey is administered every 3 years, from grades 5-12 and includes public schools as well as some private schools.
  • 111 questions are asked (19 pages long) in the form of a standardized test.
  • The survey may be administered in pencil/paper, however most students will access the survey via school issued iPads, chrome books or computers.
  • For the electronic version, students log in using their personal student ID code that links them to the survey.
  • Parents are given the right to come into the school to view the survey, and may choose to opt their child out from taking it.
  • Data results are shared statewide as well as with nonprofits and businesses. It is said this is done in order to evaluate student trends and is used for funding programs that appear to have a greater need based on data results.
  • While the survey is said to be “anonymous and confidential,” again students often gain access to the survey via school issued technology and is linked to their student ID.
  • “The privacy of the students is protected” according to the MNDOE. It may not be with the number of data breaches in technology and the way in which results of the survey are shared.
  • Approximately 1 hour of classroom time will be used.

The Minnesota Department of Education states parents (and/or legal guardians) are to be notified by their school on the survey AND hold the right to opt-out.

If you do NOT opt-out, your child will automatically be opted-in to participate in taking the survey.  This is called “passive consent.”  See the MN Dept of Education link disclosure.

What every parent MUST know regarding the questions:  Ask yourself if you feel your family’s privacy as well as your child’s privacy is being protected.  Here are questions to expect from the 2016 survey for those in grades 7-12.

Grade, age, ethnicity, gender identity, how people may describe your child at school, who child lives with, grades, skipping class, plans after high school, visits to school nurse, discipline/suspension at school, grades, change in schools, police officers in school, physical & mental health questions, height & weight, appearance, bullying, school activities, religious/church affiliation, jobs, when the child last saw a doctor, gym class, types of food/drink consumed, seat belts, “feelings,” suicide, sexual encounters (how many partners as well as their gender), unprotected sex & protected (types of birth control used), physical and sexual abuse, cigarettes (including E-cigarettes), alcohol and drug use (illegal as well as prescription).



Recess Stifling Childhood Creativity? School Playgrounds for Hire: What Happened to Free Play at School and Is Adult-Directed


Recess Stifling Childhood Creativity? School Playgrounds for Hire: What Happened to Free Play at School and Is Adult-Directed

By:  Anne Taylor

In October of 2015 school playgrounds and “Playgrounds For Hire” became the topic of numerous news articles.  This subject made waves because parents in the city of Minneapolis had to petition to have recess brought back to their elementary school.

Yes, PARENTS HAD TO PETITION that recess be brought back to Minneapolis public elementary schools.

In an interview with TC Daily Planet last winter, a Minneapolis public school teacher commented “I would like to see more recess because studies show that more play time makes kids more attentive. It is hard for them to stay focused without play or movement. In fact, it leads to more behavior problems.”

The American Academy of Pediatrics agrees calling recess “a crucial and necessary component of a child’s development.”  Simply put, studies show recess offers children important cognitive, social, emotional, and physical benefits, yet many schools continue to cut down on breaks to squeeze in more lessons, which may be counterproductive, it warns.

For years now we’ve been hearing more and more how recess is being taken away from our children in school.  While many of us remember having recess through 8th grade, children today don’t experience this much needed and necessary play beyond pre-school.  Recess is being cut for a myriad of reasons, from an increase in standardized testing and cut-throat academics, (including those in grades K-4th grade) to punishment for bad behavior and even low grades.

A parent reported that one affluent middle school in the western suburbs tried revoking recess to students if they had missing assignments and/or grades that fell below a “C.”  Students in this middle school were only offered time outside on alternating days and was dependent upon outside weather.  Which in our state, translates to May or possibly June.  Following lunch, students are sent back to their classrooms and given an opportunity to finish homework, play games, watch a movie, check-in on their iPhones (ie: social media) or chat among friends.  As one student puts it, “It’s like a prison not being able to go outside all day.”

In October 2015, an Edina, Minnesota school piqued the interest of many on the usage of playground “recess consultants” to the tune of up to $30,000 in the name of making kids’ playtime “more inclusive.”

According to the Minneapolis Star Tribune “Playworks” consultants organize recess-time activities, such as foursquare and jump rope, that are “overseen by adults and designed to reduce disciplinary problems while ensuring no children are left out.”

“Playworks” is currently operating in over 20 areas across the state of Minnesota.  This includes contracts for hire by a number of school districts, as well as providing services to youth organizations such as the YMCA of Greater Twin Cities and Hennepin County Human Services and Public Health.  According to an article in the National Review, with “the constant correction and micromanaging of kids’ social interactions, Playworks effectively turns the playground into the principal’s office — which would definitely result in fewer reasons to go.”

Many have argued that there are already adult staff and parent volunteers on the playground that monitor recess, so why burden school districts with such micromanagement and added cost?  Has our view of recess changed?

In the Orono school district, a playground program dubbed “Recess Rocks” teams up with teachers, parent and grandparent volunteers to monitor kids’ behaviors at recess.  The focus is on acts of kindness on the playground (such as reward stickers) for good behavior.  They also offer what they call a “buddy bench” should a student have no one to play with allowing other children the opportunity to come forward to play with a student.

While many like the idea of encouraging parent/family involvement at their school, some have concerns.  One parent states, “We expect our kids to act a certain way and they do not get rewarded when they do.”  Another responds, “Crazy.  Recess is not recess if it’s structured by adults.”

In Minnesota, several charter schools are working with the organization LiiNK Project, another 3rd party business.  Recently, LiiNK Project has received notoriety for increasing an academic-focused recess plan for its positive results in a Texas elementary school for having increased academic-focused recess play, while doing so multiple times throughout the day.  While the school claims to have seen positive academic results and less behavior problems, when did it become the schools motto to become character developers and under who’s list of regulations?

Once again, we are seeing the intrusion of such play where even that has a cost of freedom while outside of the classroom, leaving more opportunity for both ‘mining’ and ‘minding’ the behaviors of child on a playground.

I think we can all agree that there are some behaviors that are simply not tolerable – both verbal and physical.  But being told that hearing phrases like “you’re out!” is hurting kids?  How far have we gone?  Isn’t that the nature of sports and learning not everything in life IS fair?

The theory of imaginative, unstructured play can be found extensively in Waldorf education where unstructured recess play is undoubtedly a necessity.  According to Seacoast Waldorf School in Maine, ”Today, the average American child spends just four to seven minutes in unstructured outdoor play each day…Four to seven minutes. That’s just 23 to 42 hours a YEAR (out of an average of more than 4300 waking hours, translating to less than 1% of a child’s ‘awake time’ being spent outdoors!).”

Pediatric occupational therapist Angela Hanscom and author of the nonfiction book “Balanced and Barefoot” writes her discovery that by decreasing “children’s time and space to move and play outdoors, we are seeing a simultaneous rise in the number of children that are presenting with sensory deficits. The number of children that now need occupational therapy services to treat their sensory systems is on the rise.”

She goes on to say that “…less time outdoors on a regular basis, more and more children are walking around with underdeveloped vestibular (balance) systems. In other words, they have decreased body awareness and sense of space. Teachers are reporting that children are falling out of their seats in school, running into one another, pushing with more force during games of tag, and are generally clumsier than in years past. In fact, the more we restrict and coddle our children, the more unsafe they become.”

With Minnesota weather ebbing and flowing in varying degrees from muddy, cool springs to harsh temperatures for weeks on end in the teens and below zero, we might want to take in to account that even for famed ‘outdoorsman families,’ children still need time away from the confines of a concrete classroom setting with free and unstructured play during ALL seasons.

One wonders why consulting companies are trying to reinvent the wheel on the theory of play during recess.  The only goal then would be to monitor social, emotional learning and character while on a playground on school time.  A place that was once known as a sanctuary to children of all backgrounds, somewhere along the lines a group of ‘experts’ decided 3rd party  companies could be up for hire to take over the very basics of childhood pedagogy:  The freedom to just ‘be.’  Play now must come with monetary rewards.  After all, the Common Core thread is about creating successful human capital (money, money, money, money) within limited parameters, and once again, a one-size-fits-all approach now follows children to the playground and beyond.