News10NBC report into delayed school Chromebooks prompts call for federal investigation

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — There’s a call for an investigation after News10NBC exposed how some of our schools are not getting the Chromebooks and laptops they ordered to start the school year with hybrid learning.

We found six districts that will not get their orders in time and our report pinpointed sanctions by the U.S. Commerce Department against certain Chinese companies as one of the reasons.

Because of our report, Congressman Joe Morelle told News10NBC Friday that he’s asking the Commerce Department to deal with these delays by September.

In its July press release about the sanctions, the Commerce Department said the Chinese companies were violating human rights, including forced labor. But schools say that’s a reason why at least have a dozen school districts are going to start the year without the Chromebooks and laptops they ordered.

The districts are Churchville-Chili, Brockport, Fairport, Geneseo, Greece and Hilton.

Grace Scism, Hilton CSD Communications: "Can you speak about Chromebooks? Who will get them and when?"

The issue came up at a public forum in Hilton last Wednesday. The district said it order Chromebooks months ago.

Dr. Barbara Surash named Executive Director for Education K-12: "But unfortunately because of the sanctions in China, of human rights violations, some of the product that makes the computers will not be arriving at the time we wanted them to."

In an email, Greece schools wrote "We were expecting to receive 1,000 Chromebooks. Delivery has been delayed until November."

Greece says every student will have a device, just not the latest model.

In Geneseo 95 Chromebooks ordered since early June have not arrived.

Brean: "Do you have any idea why some schools like yours are not getting their deliveries and other schools are?"

Cindy Flowers, Superintendent Genese CSD: "I don’t. What our manufacturer has told us is that there is a lag in getting the Chromebooks from China."

In the July news release from the U.S. Commerce Department, it says it was sanctioning 11 Chinese companies for human rights abuses and adds "new restrictions" on "technology."

The statement from Congressman Morelle says he "called on the United States Department of Commerce to address the significant delays in obtaining technology like Chromebooks and Tablets that are preventing school districts from adequately preparing for remote and distance learning. Morelle said "I am concerned that this will have adverse consequences on American school children and educators preparing to confront the unique challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic."

Morelle says he wants the Commerce Department to tell him what it’s doing to get those devices here by September first.

I emailed the Commerce Department Wednesday prior to our first story on Wednesday and the department did not respond.