By Christy Barritt
Bill Could Curb Access to Student Data
Washington lawmakers are considering a new bill that will protect student data from being shared with third-party education vendors without parental consent.
Changes to the U.S. Department of Education’s Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) allow sharing personally identifiable student data with private companies in order to create an online information portal. This information includes students’ personal identification, including everything from name and address, all the way to attendance records, test scores, and learning disabilities.
Along with parental permission, the new bill introduced in the U.S. Senate would also make it illegal for companies to use student data to market to them, and it requires companies to delete student data that’s no longer needed.
“Parents, not private companies, have the right—should have the right—to control personal information about their children,” said Senator Edward Markey of Massachusetts. “Children’s educational record is not a product to be bought and sold by the highest bidder.”
Atheist Books Sent to Prisoners
A secular group has started a new initiative to send atheist-themed books to prisons as an alternative to religious-based outreaches.
Center For Inquiry is behind the effort and claim they’ve received requests for “freethought” books from 45 individuals in prisons so far. The project coordinator said convicts want to read more books based in rationality, science, and skepticism. The atheist group is also offering pen pal connections in hopes of keeping prisoners open minded and encouraging them toward critical thinking.
The Freethought Book Project originally started in 2005 to counteract the “pernicious and overwhelming influence of religious proselytizing.”
Many faith-based ministries reach out to prisons, including Chuck Colson’s Prison Fellowship, which operates in 1,300 correctional facilities.
Third of the World Hostile Toward Religion
According to the Pew Research Center, high or very high social hostility toward religion was reported in a third of the 198 countries and territories analyzed by the organization.
There was a marked increase in opposition to religion in almost every major region around the world since Pew’s last analysis was done. According to the study, the 33 percent hostility reported in 2012 represented a six-year peak, up from 29 percent in 2011, and 20 percent in 2007.
The sharpest spikes were in the Middle East and North Africa, which Pew attributed to the recent political revolutions sometimes referred to as the Arab Spring. Six countries in total were found to have especially high social hostilities: Syria, Lebanon, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Thailand, and Burma (Myanmar).
Christians and Muslims were the two religious groups harassed in the most countries between 2006 and 2012. Christians were harassed in 151 countries, Muslims in 135, and Jews in 95.
Euthanasia Constitutional in Another State
A New Mexico judge has ruled that “competent, terminally ill patients” can “choose aid in dying” under the state constitution.
Second Judicial District Judge Nan Nash said doctors cannot stop mentally sound patients with terminal illnesses from asking for assistance to end their lives.
This ruling came after a lawsuit brought on by a woman with uterine cancer and her two doctors. The woman is currently in remission but doesn’t want to “suffer needlessly at the end,” should things take a turn for the worst.
The judge’s decision will protect doctors who assist with suicide from prosecution.
Many organizations such as the New Mexico Conference of Catholic Bishops and the National Right to Life denounced the decision.
Four other states currently allow assisted suicide and physician aid in dying: Oregon, Washington, Montana, and Vermont.
Christy Barritt is an award-winning author, freelance writer, and speaker living in Chesapeake, Virginia. She and her husband Scott have two sons.