School board hears presentation on steps for data privacy protections

The Huntington County Community School Corporation Board of School Trustees heard a presentation at its regular meeting on Monday, Aug. 12, about the Trusted Learning Environment (TLE) Seal Program, an inter-district initiative to implement student – as well as corporation – data privacy protections that meet a high set of standards.

Tom Ashley, the corporation’s director of technology, outlined the program that implements specific practices that schools must have implemented in order to be eligible for the “seal” designation and keep sensitive data safe from hackers and identity thieves. The program is the result of several months of talks between the Indiana Department of Education and school district administrators.

Ashley said the timing of TLE was excellent, after the board declared a goal to “develop a proactive plan that ensures safety remains a primary consideration throughout the corporation.”

“This Trusted Learning Environment certification is our path to ensuring for all of our stakeholders – our board, our administration, our teachers, our students and our community,” he said. “It’s a mark of distinction for our school system, signaling that they have specific, measurable steps to ensure safety and privacy of our data and our student information and safety and security.”

Ashley told the board that education is one of the biggest and easiest targets of those trying to steal data. As an example, he said a W2 form is worth $52 on the “Dark Web,” enticing criminals to collect and sell whatever information they can steal. They have also hijacked school corporations’ email domains, he said, including HCCSC. He showed a map highlighting countries that have used the domain to send bogus emails.

“The United States for sure, but we have Germany, we have Japan and there’s South America. They’re sending emails from our domain,” Ashley reported. “That’s how they fool lots of people into stealing their data.”

In addition, over the summer one email account was compromised, he said, adding that someone clicked on a bad link, causing that account to send out hundreds of thousands of emails across the globe. It took several weeks to clear up the account and reinstate the district’s domain from being blocked and blacklisted.

Zionsville Community Schools has already achieved the TLE Seal, and will facilitate the certification process for other school districts. Current participating Hoosier school districts include Bartholomew County Schools, Concord Schools, MSD Lawrence Township Schools, Noblesville Schools, Northwest Allen Schools and Southwest Allen Schools.

Ashley said the school districts have four years to become certified in the TLE program. The certification path involves implementing workable processes, starting with software and app selection; providing consistent ongoing training for school personnel; involving parents in the process and offering classes; and making security and privacy a priority.

“There are regular safety audits, there’s regular penetration testing. There are certain things we can do to test our vulnerability for emails and see who’s clicking on what. That is all part of this framework,” he said. “It is going to cover processes and operations and how we handle files. If we’re sending personal information it will look at how we’re handling data across the board.”

The board also heard a presentation from part-time Criminal Justice Instructor Terry Stoffel and Corporation Nurse Megan Friesen regarding use of medications policies.

Stoffel, representing the Huntington Police chief and Huntington County sheriff, said the heroin epidemic has not abated in the county. He quoted statistics that showed in 2016 there were 91 heroin overdoses, with 36 of those requiring naloxone (Narcan) to neutralize the effects of the drug; in 2015 there were 107 overdoses, with 27 requiring naloxone. Two years ago there were 11 deaths from opioid overdoses; there have been five deaths so far this year.

Stoffel recommended keeping doses of naloxone on standby in the event that a life-threatening situation occurs at school. He said the nasal spray doses can be acquired at no cost.

“Being trained in this area and knowing what to look for and having this product there is a very good letter of safety there for us,” he told the board. “If we fail to act and take care of the problem when it arises I’m afraid we’re going to be in trouble when the resources are there.”

Friesen added that the school corporation needs to be proactive.

“We already do have atomizers in the clinics that we use for seizure medications, so this isn’t something new that the clinic assistants are going to see for the first time; this is something we already have in the clinics,” she said, adding that emergency medical services is called for support whenever a student is treated.

Friesen also said the ability to carry naloxone in the clinic was granted by a 2017 senate bill that also includes albuterol and epinephrine pens.
The board tabled any action, citing the discussion as a first reading. A second reading will result in a vote at its next meeting on Aug. 26.

Among its actions, the board unanimously voted on the following items:

• Approval of a two-year agreement to award HCCSC’s banking services to Teachers Credit Union.

• Approval of the Viking New Tech agreement for 2019-2021 to continue in the New Tech Network.

• Approved of the slate of elementary and middle school resource officers.

• Approval of a one-year lease with the Northeast Indiana Works (formerly WorkOne) at the Learning Center.

• Approved a memorandum of understanding with the IMPACT Institute to continue to provide and administer adult education programs at the Learning Center for one year.

• Continued an agreement for two years with the Parkview Huntington Family YMCA to allow HCCSC the use of the pool and allow the Y to use the high school’s gymnasium equipment.