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Durango High School principal says new campus management app is not a threat to student privacy

Concerns over access to information creates avenue for district to share its Data Protection Addendum
Durango High School switched to using campus management app Minga last week to ensure students had access to their ID at all times. (AP Photo/Jenny Kane, File)

A new phone app has created some confusion between Durango High School administration and its students.

An email from Durango High School principal Jon Hoerl last week indicated there was misinformation being spread about the high school’s usage of Minga. Minga describes itself as a campus management platform which seeks to improve the school’s security.

However, according to a news tip sent in to The Durango Herald, some students have felt the app was a violation of privacy.

Parents were also concerned about the app tracking student information and whether the school was using it for surveillance, according to the email.

This resulted in Hoerl sending the email to parents to clarify the purpose of the app and what it can and can’t do.

“Durango High School has been looking for a tool that would help to streamline some processes, such as IDs, hallway passes and school events,” Hoerl said. “The DHS leadership team participated in a school visit to another high-performing high school in Colorado, Cherry Creek, where we learned about how they were using the Minga platform. Cherry Creek High School boasted about notable improvement in student involvement and school spirit at all types of events.”

This noticed improvement at Cherry Creek inspired the district to try the app in a pilot setting.

Hoerl assured parents that the district implemented safeguards to protect student information through its Data Protection Addendum.

“9-R requires a Data Protection Addendum to be signed by both the vendor and the District Information Technology team and the Student Information Systems team,” he said. “This agreement is in place for Minga and DHS to protect student information and any data sharing of personal information. As outlined in the DPA and with regard to Personal Identifiable Information, Minga is heavily restricted in its access and there are penalties if they do.”

The addendum says “upon the occurrence of a security breach, the District may terminate this Agreement in accordance with District policies. The District may require contractor to suspend all services, pending the investigation and successful resolution of any Security Breach, and contractor may be required to reimburse District all amounts paid for any period during which services were not rendered, as provided herein.”

This means if Durango School District 9-R feels that a contractor such as Minga is attempting to access information that is not permitted by the district, it can terminate its agreement with Minga.

“Student data is not at risk and students are not tracked or monitored beyond their name, why they are out of class in the hallway, how long they have been outside of class, and when they are due back, using the Hall Pass feature, for example. The Minga Hall Pass is simply a digital version of the paper hall passes we had been using,” Hoerl said.

Students would often forget, lose or misplace physical school IDs, which through DHS’s security process required them to check-in at the front desk and verify they were actually students multiple times a day.

By using the app, district and DHS administration believe this will help eliminate this issue.

The app can also be used as a digital ticketing mechanism for extracurricular activities and sporting events.

With that said, the app is not a requirement at Durango High School. For students that may not have access to smartphones, they may still use their physical IDs.

Also, every student has access to a Google Chromebook where they can in turn access Minga for the hall pass feature.


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