Last week, the Capitol Crud (the flu that's been making the rounds under the dome) kept Rep. Lynne DiSanto (R-35/Rapid City) from attending Thursday's House Health and Human Services hearing and casting the deciding vote on House Bill 1166, this year's effort to restrict minors' use of tanning beds.

I visited with Rep. DiSanto today at the Capitol. She's back in fine fettle and ready to pull HB 1166 out of limbo and cast it into perdition. Rep. DiSanto says she won't let her own kids use tanning beds (boys, go out and get some real sun!), but she prefers parental control to government regulation of fake-bakery.

So unless HB 1166 prime sponsor Rep. Scott Munsterman (R-7/ Brookings) can change one mind tomorrow morning, his youth tan-ban is toast.

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The Build Dakota Scholarship is now open to applicants! (Just be careful when you click: when I opened the new site, welding sparks flashed all over the place.) The scholarship board has decided to spend $25 million of T. Denny Sanford's money and $25 million of our money to subsidize vo-tech degrees in the following eight industry areas:

  1. automotive
  2. building trades/construction
  3. energy technicians
  4. engineering technicians
  5. licensed practical nursing
  6. medical lab technicians
  7. precision manufacturing
  8. welding

(Two points off for lack of parallelism... but that's one of those liberal arts concepts Governor Daugaard says aren't worth our time....)

The BSD Eligible Programs List breaks those critical job fields down to specific degree/diploma programs at Southeast, Lake Area, Mitchell, and Western Dakota. But wait, no counseling? I hear counseling is critical job skill for all sorts of workers:

When state Rep. Lynne DiSanto was attending Chadron State College in Nebraska years ago, eventually earning a bachelor’s degree in business and a master’s degree in counseling, she never knew how those studies would impact the rest of her life.

Today, just a few weeks into her first term as a state legislator, DiSanto now knows that her college preparation has proven invaluable.

“That type of degree in counseling is never wasted, especially in the business world,” said the 38-year-old mother of three from Rapid Valley. “The things you learn about relating to people and understanding people has definitely helped me in the Legislature. It’s critical to understand what’s important to people, including your constituents of course, but your other legislators as well,” DiSanto added. “You learn to talk to people in a way that they understand and that makes sense to them” [Tom Griffith, "DiSanto Jumps into Lawmaking with Vigor in First Term," Rapid City Journal, 2015.02.15].

Empathy, understanding, communication skills... I don't know, Lynne. That all sounds pretty liberal artsy-fartsy to me. Almost downright philosophical. It's a good thing South Dakota's focusing on making good solid practical education free for welders and car fixers, not folks who sit around talking about feelings. Help Build South Dakota with practical jobs—apply today!

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An hour and a half of riveting testimony and vigorous committee debate resulted in stalemate for the tan ban last week. House Bill 1166, a bill to ban minors from tanning beds, got its first hearing before House Health and Human Services last Thursday. The committee heard seven proponents and five opponents, including two lobbyists for the South Dakota Tanning Salon Association (yes, there is such an association). Committee members considered amendments to lower the ban age to under 14, to allow 14- to 18-year-olds to tan with consent from a parent and a physician, and to allow those teens to tan with just a note from a parent. The latter amendment came close to passing, but foundered, like the bill itself, on a 6–6 vote. Chairman Scott Munsterman, unable to secure one more vote, had to defer his bill to February 19.

Rep. Lynne DiSanto, R-35/Rapid City

Rep. Lynne DiSanto, the House needs your mild and beneficent glow!

The stalemate happened because HHS committee member Rep. Lynne DiSanto (R-35/Rapid City) skipped work Thursday. That's too bad, because Rep. DiSanto, Rapid City's maven of modeling, knows a thing or two about young women and fake tans. Rep. DiSanto surely could have shone a fierce professional light on the issue and helped the committee come to a decision.

So when Rep. DiSanto comes to committee Thursday, how will she tilt the vote? Will she pick up Teen Vogue and deem fake-baking the new smoking? Or will Rep. DiSanto stand for carcinogenic liberty with her bronzed commodities and Facebook Likes?

p.s.: Eleven states ban minor use of tanning beds. 41 states have some sort of minor-tanning regulations. South Dakota has no such regulations.

pp.s.: So if the Legislature passes both HB 1166 and HB 1212, which defines embryos as minors in an attempt to ban abortion, will that mean pregnant women won't be able to use tanning beds?

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Many South Dakota schools use digital learning platforms. The Regental institutions use Brightspace/D2L. The Spearfish School District uses Moodle (which is open source, bless you, Spearfish!). Digital learning platforms, also called virtual learning environments, extend the classroom to a safe, online space where students and teachers can create and share materials, converse, and take care of course administrative tasks.

Digital learning platforms must also be implanting liberal microchips in your kids, because Rep. Lynne DiSanto (R-35/Rapid City) is leading a group of conservatives in proposing House Bill 1184, which would regulate digital learning platforms and allow parents to opt their kids out of using these nefarious dens of digital iniquity.

Section 1 of HB 1184 defines "digital learning platform" as "an interactive digital platform that collects and records any personally identifiable student information." By that definition, Google Drive is an digital learning platform. Teachers use Google Drive all the time as a quick, easy solution for student collaboration and homework submission. It's interactive, students log in with distinct IDs, and they submit essays, slideshows, and other projects under their own names. Arguably, the Internet as a whole could be viewed as a digital learning platform, since websites collect data about the computers from which students log in, how long they visit, and which links they click, not to mention any data the students may enter as they interact with the websites.

Section 2 is where that broad definition gets sticky. HB 1184 would require schools to provide adult students and parents of minor students "a formal written explanation of the goals and capabilities" of any digital learning platform intended for classroom use, "including of any software, whether the software is loaded onto the platform or hosted externally by a third party." Specifically, schools must detail the following:

  1. How the platform works and the platform's principal purpose or purposes;
  2. The title and business address of the school official who is responsible for the platform, and the name and business address of any contractor or outside party maintaining the platform for or on behalf of the school;
  3. The information the software is designed to collect from any student or capture and record about any student, including any data matches with other personally identifiable student information;
  4. Every element of data that the platform or software will collect or record about any student, including personal psychological characteristics; noncognitive attributes or skills such as collaboration, resilience, and perseverance; and physiological measurements;
  5. The purpose of collecting and recording the data;
  6. Every contemplated use or disclosure of the data, the categories of recipients, and the purpose of any use or disclosure;
  7. A full explanation of the privacy policy maintained by the digital-learning provider; and
  8. The policies and practices of the school regarding storage, retrievability, access controls, retention, and disposal of the records collected and recorded by the platform [House Bill 1184, original text, posted 2015.01.30].

There goes my innovation in the classroom. Suppose I find a quick and easy classroom wiki that looks like a good fit for a new assignment I'm doing this month with my students. I have no idea if I'll want to use the wiki in the future; I'd just like to test drive it, see if it's student-friendly. Under HB 1184, I need to research and write-up that eight-point analysis (which, if I responsibly fulfill HB 1184, should run several pages) and send it to the parent/guardian of every student in the school (the bill does not limit notifications for course-specific implementations to students in that course). Never mind—we'll just make posters with construction paper.

Section 3 says any digital learning platform must include "a portal or other mechanism allowing parents access to the platform and to all the content available to the students using the platform." Sure, no problem: I love having parents visit my classroom to see what students are learning and creating. I like students to know that their work could be seen by members of the public, not just by me.

But let's play lawyer: HB 1184 says "all the content available to the students." It doesn't say, "parents may access all content available to their child or children." My casual legal reading says HB 1184 lets me demand access not just to my child's homework submissions but to every other child's classroom work products. If your school runs a secure site like D2L, where grades and comments from instructors are available to students, HB 1184 gives parents access to everyone's grades and comments. (Rep. DiSanto, really, why don't you call me before you post language like this?)

HB 1184 throws our aspirations to 21st-century online learning into complete chaos with Section 4, the opt-out clause:

Unless a school accredited by the state certifies that the platform is essential to the school's educational mission and provides an explanation for the basis of that certification, a student who has reached the age of eighteen, or the parent or guardian of a minor student, may opt out of the use of any digital-learning platform [HB 1184].

Essential? I like to say I can teach anything with chalk and good shoes, but Socrates, the archetype for great teaching, walked around the agora barefoot and didn't write anything down. The Internet could blow up tomorrow, and while my heart would ache, I could still ask kids provocative questions and help them become intelligent citizens. No digital learning platform is "essential" to a school's mission. Thus, under HB 1184, any student can opt out of the use of any digital learning platform, and my plan to turn all South Dakota students into responsible online citizen journalists is foiled. Curses!

Maybe the hearing on House Bill 1184 in House Education will clarify Rep. DiSanto's privacy concerns. But trust me, Rep. DiSanto: I can corrupt your youth whether or not I can require them to log in to Moodle. Perhaps you should drop HB 1184 and turn your intense concerns about privacy to warrantless searches, the burdensome documentation requirements for drivers licenses, and—oh yeah!—your fellow Republican Senator Corey Brown's conversion of petition reform into an invasion of unfortunate political candidates' medical privacy (see Senate Bill 69, Section 19).

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Rep. Lynne DiSanto (R-35/Rapid City) is already requiring legislators to talk about breasts; now she's going to have them saying "clitoris" on the House floor.

House Bill 1089 would make it a Class 4 felony to mutilate female genitalia. Some cultures think female genital mutilation is an acceptable practice. HB 1089 takes the anti-multicultural position that these cultures are wrong and would suppress this cultural practice in South Dakota.

Rep. DiSanto and I would have gotten along swimmingly back in my SDSU days when I was listening to Rush Limbaugh and waging war against my profs for teaching multiculturalism in my education classes. "If our calling as teachers is to respect and celebrate other cultures," I would ask my profs, "how do we deal with cultural practices that harm the health and dignity of our students?" Had I known about female genital mutilation at the time, I'd have held it up as Exhibit #1 of the limits of multiculturalism.

I've given up Rush, but I maintain my apparent agreement with Rep. DiSanto that some cultural practices deserve no tolerance, let alone celebration. The only reason I can think of to oppose HB 1089 (and I have to try to think of some reason, because hey, it's Lynne DiSanto!) is that it may be unnecessary. That same conservative me from 1992 who fought value relativism would also fight superfluous legislation. Might female genital mutilation already be covered by our statutes on assaults and personal injuries, or perhaps child abuse?

But that's an argument about the content of the law, not the cruel act House Bill 1089 opposes. Check with the lawyers and the LRC, but on face, HB 1089 looks like a good bill.

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