Remove SkoolLive from Chandler Unified School District
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"SkoolLive - An interactive digital invasion of our high schools by corporations and the military."
SkoolLive LLC. is an advertising company that owns, operates, and distributes large interactive billboards to schools all across the United States. Over the summer, these billboards, called kiosks by SkoolLive, were installed on the walls of several high schools in Chandler Unified School District, including Perry, Basha, Hamilton, Casteel, and Chandler High School.
SkoolLive has caught the attention of several advocates for education and student rights, such as the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, American Civil Liberties Union, and StudentPrivacy.org. The majority of which heavily criticize the self-proclaimed third party advertising company for scamming both students and schools across the nation, through the monetization of children and education throughout CUSD.
As campaign manager David Monahan from Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, describes, “Schools should be about learning, not marketing. SkoolLive brings advertising into schools, where kids are a captive audience and can't turn it off, with a bogus sales pitch that schools need a better way to communicate with students.”
In an effort to learn about why and how the halls had been converted to ad space, research on SkoolLive was initiated with questions to the appropriate officials regarding its origins in the Perry and several other high schools in CUSD. It was soon realized that nobody questioned in the school seemed to be able to identify how exactly the kiosks got here. Administration directed the search to the school's student government, who circled investigations back to the district. The contract between SkoolLive and CUSD revealed the signature, Frank Fletcher, the district’s Associate Superintendent for Support Services. At this time, Fletcher has yet to comment on SkoolLive’s involvement with CUSD.
Further examination of the contract led to multiple cases of SkoolLive’s considerable violation of district policies, as well as state laws.
For example, CUSD policies book states the content of the kiosk “shall not be released… without the approval of the principal” via the Request to Distribute Material application. Due to the kiosks operating on the SkoolLive network and not regulated by schools, students are given the ability to create unfiltered profiles that appear on all kiosks, leading to some students displaying names (such as “D***less The Clown” and “Monkey F*****”), or images of marijuana and other obscene imagery.
When asked about SkoolLive, Pat Elder of StudentPrivacy.org revealed that SkoolLive has been known to collect names and phone numbers from kids through U.S. Army promotions in which students are asked to enter their name and phone number as entry into a raffle and possibly receive a prize. This, according to Elder, “violating the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA)” as well as potentially “Section 8025 of the Every Student Succeeds Act, (ESSA)”. Elder also points out that “parents are supposed to be given the right to ‘opt-out’ of having information released to the military from the schools about their children. It seems SkoolLive is able to circumvent the federal law on this.”
The school district has responded negatively to the investigation through various forms of denial, threats, and disciplinary actions. Many school administrators have claimed that it benefits our schools as a way to generate funds. Although, according to the contract between SkoolLive and the district, the CUSD is to make 20% of “net revenue”, meaning schools don't make any money until SkoolLive uses the district's profits to pay for “all costs of promotion/content production, server fee, software licensing fee, sales commission, kiosk supply and maintenance, overhead, taxes, and similar expenses” and SkoolLive takes 80% of whatever is left over. A district representative stated that CUSD has made “about $120” to date, meaning each kiosk has made on average, four dollars in the last 6 months. According to electricity rates from Arizona Public Service, each 200 Watt kiosk costs about three dollars a month for the district to power. This means that overall, each kiosk has actually lost over two dollars a month. Considering there are about 15 SkoolLive kiosks in the district, in the last 6 months, CUSD has lost over $200 from installing the kiosks, and poses to lose around $420 annually.
It is pertinent that public knowledge of SkoolLive and their actions be expanded and stressed. It is not only the right of each student to know about what is going on in their school, but also that of every faculty member, student, and parent of every school.
It is our duty to hold public schools accountable for the safety of their children and for this, they must be informed of what is going on within the walls of not only high schools within the Chandler Unified School District, but the country as well.
Monahan abstracts, “SkoolLive is also violating students’ privacy, not being upfront about what information they collect about students and how they use and share it. And all for pennies back to the school. It’s a bad deal for schools and their students.”
Contact Cooper Hedger on Twitter: @TheWordOfNixon or by email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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