Editorial: Conroe ISD’s use of Parents’ Emergency Contact Information Illegal, Immoral

Kelli Cook, Publisher, The Golden Hammer

Over the past several days, Conroe Independent School District (CISD) has sent text message blasts with political advertisements, advocating in favor of the $677 Million bond set for referendum on November 5, to parents using their emergency contact information. Please see “Parents Furious With, But Scared Of, Conroe ISD Using Emergency Contact Telephone Numbers For Pro-$677 Million Bond Political Advertising Text Messages,” The Golden Hammer, October 1, 2019.

CISD’s use of parents’ emergency contact telephone numbers to send political text messages is both illegal and immoral. The school district needs to stop the wrongful conduct now.

Illegal

Section 32.152 of the Texas Education Code provides:

“Sec. 32.152. PROHIBITED USE OF COVERED INFORMATION. (a) An operator may not knowingly…engage in targeted advertising on any website, online service, online application, or mobile application if the target of the advertising is based on any information, including covered information and persistent unique identifiers, that the operator has acquired through the use of the operator’s website, online service, online application, or mobile application for a school purpose.”

Chapter 32 of the Education Code defines an “operator” as “the operator of a website, online service, online application, or mobile application who has actual knowledge that the website, online service, online application, or mobile application is used primarily for a school purpose and was designed and marketed for a school purpose.”

Therefore, it’s important to examine how CISD has obtained the emergency mobile numbers of parents to whom they’ve sent political messages, especially in the Conroe High School feeder zone, during the past ten days.

CISD operates an “Opt-In” for the school district’s “EMERGENCY NOTIFICATION SYSTEM.” As the Opt-In on the school district’s website makes clear the “opt-in” is for emergency notices.

Source: CISD.

CISD operates the website and the mobile application through which parents may “opt in” to receive emergency notifications for their children. That makes CISD the “operator” under Chapter 32 of the Texas Education Code.

Two weeks ago when Tropical Storm Imelda came to this area, CISD did a poor job notifying parents of school closures or the dangers of leaving your home during the storm which brought severe flooding to areas of East Montgomery County and Conroe.

Nevertheless, CISD rapaciously sent text messages about the $677.3 Million bond package to parents through the Emergency Notification System. When CISD did that, it directly violated Section 32.152 of the Texas Education Code.

CISD’s actions were illegal.

Immoral

CISD’s actions were also immoral. Nothing in the school district’s policy requires parents to provide a means to notify them by text message. Parents clearly “opt in” for the purpose of receiving emergency school notifications.

Instead, CISD breached its trust with those parents who provided their telephone numbers for emergency use.

CISD took information, which parents provided for emergencies, and instead utilized that information for targeted political advertising.

CISD’s actions were immoral.




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