Montana’s Superintendent of Public Instruction has once again tangled with Governor Steve Bullock over policies that affect schools, specifically public notifications regarding cases of COVID 19.

In a recent press conference, Bullock made the following statement:

“For schools with over 50 students, both the number of students positive and the number of staff positive will be shared along with the name of the school and in which county the school is in,” said Bullock. “For schools with between 11 and 50 students, the number of students and staff positive will be shared but it won't distinguish between our students and our staff, and for schools with 10 or fewer students, there'll be no reporting in order to ensure the protection of individual privacy.”

Arntzen says the Governor’s policy does not take into consideration the rural nature of most Montana schools..

“This is not just for public schools,” said Arntzen. “This is all for all schools. So this is for our non-public as well our Christian Schools. This is for all schools, and we have 821 of these across our state and the majority of those in Montana are very rural in nature. They are one room schoolhouses, or have less than 100 or 50 students and even that we have may have one lead teacher.”

Arntzen claims the notifications could lead to a breach in student or teacher privacy.

“My deep concern, and this comes from my legislative background, is that this data could be traced back to individual, personal, identifiable health information that could be made public, and that there are very strict laws around all of this,” she said.

Arntzen also claimed that the new policy leaves parents out of the communication loop.

“And the policy also has a disregard of parents,” she said. “Parents are having to report this, and there is no opting out for a parent. Parents are utterly removed from the discussion of this data mining at this extent.”

Arntzen sent this letter to Governor Bullock following his press conference on Wednesday.

Arntzen closed with this plea to Governor Bullock.

“I again ask the Governor to reverse this decision and display aggregate data only at the county level.”

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