Parent of high school student takes concerns to provincial privacy commissioner, RDSB

Tom Sasvari

The Recorder

M’CHIGEENG—The parent of a Manitoulin Secondary School (MSS) student is taking her concerns with the school and the Rainbow District School Board (RDSB) student ‘tracking board’ to the Privacy Commissioner of Ontario. While the parent has concerns her daughter was on the tracking board without her knowledge, Bruce Bourget, superintendent of RDSB, and MSS principal Laurie Zahnow said that all students are tracked by teachers and administration in an effort to ensure student success for all students.

“I have sent in the forms to the privacy commissioner,” stated Kim Bilbija, whose daughter is in Grade 10 at MSS. “I’ve sent the forms to the Privacy Commissioner for Ontario because I am questioning the tracking board and what statutes are required by school boards (applied to the Education Act), what information the board is allowed to collect and disseminate, how it became open, and when and why they didn’t disclose to us when or why my daughter was on this tracking board.”

Ms. Zahnow told the Recorder, “the tracking board is a positive thing, not negative in any way, and isn’t unique to this school, it is in place throughout the Rainbow Board. All schools have tracking boards, both in secondary and elementary schools. It is part of a provincial strategy; it is not something that we came up with on our own and it is something that Bruce Bourget (superintendent of schools with the RDSB) and the board has in place in all our schools.”

Mr. Bourget confirmed what Ms. Zahnow said, telling the Recorder, “tracking boards are in place in all Rainbow Schools and across the province. There are different variations of the tracking board in place in the province, some the same as our schools have. It depends on the board and school.”

“The tracking boards are used by teachers to track students, with the intention of helping put supports in place for the success of students in schools,” said Mr. Bourget.

“Because the names of the students are always right in front of us (through the tracking board), teachers have helped a lot of students in being successful,” said Ms. Zahnow. “We track all students and all their progress whether it be formal or informal.”

Ms. Bilbija said she had met with Mr. Bourget and Ms. Zahnow with her concerns in late April, after having attended a parent-teacher evening at the school (in March) where she was questioned by a teacher as to why her daughter was on the tracking board in the school staff room. She subsequently went to the staff room, which was open that evening, and saw her daughter’s picture and name on the tracking board.

“We had one meeting to discuss the letter I had sent to Ms. Zahnow, with copies to Mr. Bourget and Norm Blaseg (Director of Education for RDSB), questioning what the tracking board is and how my daughter came to be on it. I’m her parent—why wasn’t I informed, is one of the things I wanted answered.”

Ms. Bilbija suspects her daughter was put on the tracking board after she and two other students had been suspended from school after a school dance last year and she questions the board and schools policies and procedures in putting students on the tracking board, and why she and her husband John hadn’t been contacted and informed of the matter.

Ms. Bilbija explained the tracking board is an 8×10 inch board attached to the wall of the staff room, made of yellow construction paper with tracking board across it. “It looks as though an index card is attached for each student on the board and includes a photograph, name of the student and courses they are taking.”

When she met with Ms. Zahnow, Ms. Bilbija said, “I was told students are put on this board for a number of reasons, those could include academic, social and behaviour.”

“I have a huge problem with the tracking. I was told it is not a punitive thing, but it isn’t a success tracking board either,” said Ms. Bilbija. “Mr. Bourget said maybe the title of the board could be changed, and I pointed out I was not informed about any of this. On that question I was told there is not sufficient administrative staff to contact and inform all parents.”

“I’m surprised other parents have not questioned what and why the tracking boards are in place. It seems to be a secret. If they were proud of what the students were accomplishing their pictures would be displayed in the hallways of the school,” said Ms. Bilbija. She also pointed out the tracking board is accessible to not only teachers, but all staff and visiting school staff who use the staff room.

Ms. Zahnow said, “We track all students and their progress all the time, informally and formally. The tracking board is visual, it’s their (student) achievement that we are looking at, which we take to help provide the students the additional supports they may need to be successful. It is supportive in nature––it is not punitive in any way.”

“It provides us a focus for discussion of students, how well they are doing and if they require additional supports from any staff member,” said Ms. Zahnow. “As I said, we track all students, although they are not all put on the tracking board. There are a variety of reasons a student may be on a tracking board, such as academics, social, school participation, things that might keep the student from being successful. And our tracking board is in a locked room. It is absolutely not a punitive thing, it is a positive thing, looking at ways and means we can help a student be successful in school.”

Ms. Bilbija told the Recorder she has reviewed the RDSB policies and procedures, “and I don’t think the tracking board is following their procedures. I also question why in today’s age, when everything can be done by computers, why this tracking board could not be secure in a school computer, and why instead it is fine to post student pictures on a wall in the school, even if it is the staff room.”