Oops, she did it again!
Greenwich Superintendent Toni Jones seems to have intentionally misled parents during the Board of Education meeting on September 21, 2023.
That's when she assured parents that “only” the digital ID module from Minga had been implemented.
She said that students “just" use it to check out library books, for the cafeteria, and for ID purposes. She promised that students cannot post messages on the App, nor could they message one another through Minga. And she assured parents that the rewards module is not being used at all.
While that may have been "technically" true at the time Jones made those comments, it appears that Jones is guilty of a lie of omission.
Why do we say that?
Well, for starters, we obtained a copy of the Minga contract through a Freedom of Information Act request. The $12,825 contract reveals that Jones did not just purchase the digital ID module of Minga.
She purchased all of the available modules—digital ID, digital hall pass, check-in, communications and PBIS (Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports). She even purchased the annual subscription for the SMS module.
Of course, the student leader who spoke at the September 21, 2023, BOE meeting had hinted that Minga would become more than just the "digital ID" module that Jones admitted to having already rolled out.
He said that the new digital ID application would become more popular "as we find ways to expand the application's function to class events, activities, and student feedback."
Indeed that seems to be Jones' plan.
Why else would she have purchased all of the modules that Minga had for sale when she could have purchased just the digital ID portion a la carte?
How do we know that's even possible?
Well, we contacted Minga and asked. We also requested a demonstration of the system.
But before providing the demo, the Minga Customer Service Rep had to first confirm that Greenwich was a Minga customer, and that we had a child in the Greenwich school district.
Even though the child had not downloaded the Minga app and the parent opted the child out of digital ID, our Minga Rep was quickly able to confirm that the child was indeed a student in Greenwich High School by checking her own Minga dashboard.
So she proceeded to deliver the demo, and answer a number of questions.
She showed us what the GHS Minga dashboard looks like.
Users log in with their Gmail account name and password, and arrive at this landing screen.
You can clearly see all of the other Minga modules listed on the side of the screen, including the Behavior Manager and the Points Manager, arguably the most controversial aspects of this digital surveillance program because of the ability to use these modules as the basis for a Chinese-style social credit system.
The left-hand navigation shows that Minga can be used to set up both public and private groups to help "facilitate moderated conversations" among teachers and students, and to flag and remove comments that are considered "hateful or inappropriate". The app uses "anti-bullying technology" so that educators do not have to be responsible for making the determinations. Instead, you can rely on Minga's technology to decide what's inappropriate.
The Minga Rep indicated that Greenwich doesn't use the groups functionality "yet", but that's not a surprise. Most schools start off by implementing just the digital ID module in order to "get the students used to it" before they roll out subsequent modules. It usually takes from several months up to a year before the students are "ready" for all of the modules to be fully implemented, especially the Behavior and Rewards Modules which apparently take a little longer for the students to get fully adjusted to the changes.
"If they've been dabbling this year, maybe they'll go fully into it and next year, but it does tend to be a gradual introduction because it is, it is a big change. When they start introducing these, as you know the the processes that they already use will change, so it can be a bit slow," she said. That's why the implementation can take up to a full year in some cases.
If students are ever found to be "abusing" the Minga app, then administrators have the ability to block access to various aspects of the app.
Minga can also be programmed to allow students to opt out of surveys, but the district would likely have to take several steps to make sure that happens.
But for now, Greenwich has just rolled out the digital ID portion for students.
Jones further indicated that, "nothing has gone out to teachers related to Minga as we have not rolled that out" in her response to our FOIA request on October 3, 2023.
Though from the demo we saw, at least one employee is using the system to post announcements.
Students were told to download the app onto their personal devices or to access the website on their school-issued devices at the beginning of the school year, essentially requiring them to enter into a contract with Minga, a Canadian company.
By September 21st, nearly 2,000 of the ~2,700 students at Greenwich High School had already downloaded Minga onto their phones, just like they were told to do.
You can download the response to the FOIA request here.