Education Framework Blog

Focused on the Future of Education in America

Secret to Student Privacy

In previous posts, I’ve shared tips to help you better understand the rules and laws governing student privacy. I’ve provided resources to guide and assist you in navigating the student privacy quagmire, and I’ve offered recommendations to help you proactively manage your student privacy obligations with transparency and accountability. Today I address the importance of educator buy-in; a key component to consider when creating, designing and implementing a successful student privacy program in your school or district.

Managing student privacy is no simple task. Implementing a successful student privacy initiative takes a lot of work. It involves considerable amounts of time, commitment, and resources - three things most schools and districts are already running short of. But despite any perceived limitations, it is vital that educators understand the importance of student privacy and make concerted efforts to ensure student information is safe, secure and protected.

Investing in protecting student privacy is a worthwhile endeavor.

It is important to give student privacy the attention that it rightfully deserves. This starts with fostering the belief that protecting student privacy is, indeed, a valid, pressing and necessary cause, worthy of our time and consideration. It involves cultivating a mindset where everyone understands that protecting student data is no single person or department’s responsibility – instead, it is everyone’s responsibility. It requires establishing clearly defined roles, and thoughtfully laid out plans that incorporate transparency and accountability measures into your everyday thinking. And it demands putting teachers on the front lines as the guardians of student information, while providing them with the support, training and tools they need to learn, grow and excel. Because without teacher understanding, support and essential buy-in, there is little likelihood of success.

Teacher empowerment is crucial to success.

Teachers play a critical role in implementing successful student privacy initiatives, no ifs, ands or buts about it. Teachers are the first touch point for parents and students. They are the ones with the greatest understanding of what’s really going on in the classroom; their fingers directly on the pulse of learning. They know which apps and websites are being used, who is using them, and how they are being used. They see first-hand who they help and who they hinder. And they understand, be it good, bad or ugly, the value that each piece of technology brings to the table. They are the ones with the knowledge. Yet, despite the value that teachers offer, they are often left out of the planning conversation. 

It's ironic that many decisions affecting technology usage in schools are often made outside of the classroom, at the administrative level, and absent of teacher input. But just as IT directors, school and district administrators, state and local policymakers, and even parents have a uniquely qualified perspective when it comes to protecting student privacy, teachers do too. Theirs, in particular, should be of legitimate concern, with administrators and policymakers giving weighty consideration to their point-of-view. Unfortunately, that is rarely the case. This discouraging disconnect is a weakness that jeopardizes privacy efforts in schools and districts across the nation.

Protecting student privacy is everyone’s responsibility.

It is time that we start looking at the big picture when it comes data use in our schools. We can no longer presume that someone else is taking responsibility for protecting student data, because more often than not, they're not. The sooner we all acknowledge that, the better we will be.

It’s important that everybody with a stake in education – students, parents, teachers, administrators and policymakers, come together to ensure concrete efforts are in place to protect student privacy. This means properly vetting apps and websites before they are approved for usage in the classroom. It means thoroughly reading privacy policies, understanding what information is being collected from students, and knowing exactly how the data is being used. It also means staying current with local, state and federal laws and regulations, and establishing clearly defined objectives that outline what is acceptable in your state, school or district, and what is not. Communicating this information clearly is key to minimizing confusion.

It’s also important that schools and districts engage participants from the onset by providing clearly defined plans and procedures. This fosters unequivocal understanding of the vision from the start, and minimizes any confusion or misinterpretation throughout its application. Providing regular communication, like posting real-time updates via an easy-to-access school or district website engages parents, teachers and administrators in the privacy conversation and ensures privacy efforts are being addressed at each and every level. Through the creation of easy-to-read guidelines and clearly defined protocols, schools and districts empower their thought leaders to share in the privacy responsibility.

The importance of educator buy-in

A successful student data privacy initiative is built upon a foundation of trust and communication, with integrity, transparency and accountability at its core. It requires dedicated time, energy and resources to thrive and succeed. But in order to function properly, it also needs educator advocacy. 

Giving teachers a say in this matter goes a long way towards making inroads to change. It helps them be a part of the solution, instead of a source of the problem. But in order to do this effectively, teachers need the necessary tools to help them learn, improve and prosper; ones that allow them to make thoughtful, calculated decisions based on empirical data. It’s really that simple.

The secret to properly protecting student privacy is putting teachers in the driver’s seat. This ensures that privacy is being considered from the boardroom to the classroom, with the student at the center of the discussion. It's time for schools and districts to reevaluate the role that teachers play in safeguarding student data and empower them to be the gatekeepers.  The sooner this occurs, the better off we will be. 

Do you agree? I'd love to hear your thoughts! I encourage you to post your comments below.

EdSurge Tech for Schools Summit - Riverside, CA


We are happy to share that Education Framework will be participating in the EdSurge Tech for Schools Summit in Riverside, California, where we will be sharing our student privacy and parental consent software solution, EdProtect, with educators and administrators during the two day event. 

We are especially looking forward to this event because it gives us the opportunity to learn first-hand how the new privacy laws are directly affecting schools and districts in California. We want to better understand how administrators are handling their privacy obligations under SOPIPA and provide assistance to those looking for help and guidance.

Friday, January 22
7:45am – 3:15pm

Saturday, January 23
8:00am - 3:00pm

Interested in attending? Please visit here >>

2016: The Year of Student Privacy


If we had to use one word to sum up the current state of student privacy, we would have to go with “complexity.” Technology has become more and more entwined in our schools and into students’ lives; pilot programs like iPads will soon become standard at every school and grade level. Elementary school children who used to learn the Three Rs are now learning things like programming, robotics and engineering. Rote memorization has been replaced with gamified learning. And what would be early-adopter technology for this year’s kindergartner, like wearable tech and virtual reality, may be a standard educational tool by time she becomes a sixth grader.

While technology will always move faster than legislation, all levels of government are feverously working to spell out the rules for how we treat student data. As with any legislation, there are many different interest groups with different ideologies and priorities. A simple question like “Who is responsible for student data?” will be answered very differently by state legislators, local school boards, teachers, parents and technology companies; each wants control while shielding themselves from any liability.

And liability is a reality. Right now your student data is at risk with grave consequences. We live in an age where Fortune 500 companies are routinely hacked, exposing the sensitive data of millions of customers for all to see and steal with the click of a mouse. If all the resources of companies like Target, Sony and Home Depot can’t protect their data, what hope does the average overworked, underfunded school district IT department have? Not only do they need to protect from outside threats (or mischievous students); they need to protect the data from their software vendors who may want to collect it for marketing purposes. Short of reading hundreds of ever-changing Terms of Services for every app and software your district uses, you have no idea how your vendors use the data they collect, where they store it, when they delete it, who has final control over it or perhaps even how to access it. 

Because of all this complexity, we believe this is the year student data becomes one of the most important issues facing a school district. The choices schools, legislators and technology companies make over the next 12 months may end up being the foundation for what is considered standard in student privacy.

We created EdProtect to give schools the choice of the highest level of student data privacy possible. Because we’re not just developers; we’re parents. We’re as excited by all the new technology in schools as anyone, and wholeheartedly believe in the power of technology to help our kids learn. But we’re also increasingly concerned about the security of student data. And we’re not alone: 87% of parents surveyed are worried their child’s information can be stolen, with 85% responding that their willingness to support technology in schools must be coupled with efforts to ensure security.

Whether you are ready or not, this is the year your school needs to make a commitment to protecting student data. Learn more about how our tools make ensuring student privacy simple and sign up for a free demonstration today.

Who is Responsible for Protecting Student Data?


In a perfect world, student data would belong solely to the student. In practice, the responsibility for student data is shared by anyone who has contact with that data, including teachers, administrators, IT departments, school districts, software developers and parents. As such, there are often competing philosophies for how much or how little student data is collected and shared. Today we are talking about how you can manage student data in a way that best satisfies parents, your school districts, and the law.

The first step, after understanding your requirements under state and federal law, is to create written policies and provide the resources required to support data protection. These policies should be crafted in a way that ensure front-line teachers and administrators are using the tools and processes necessary for optimal data protection. The Privacy Technical Assistance Center has created a checklist for developing school district privacy programs that should help you get started. In addition, a data governance team should be created, within the district, to recommend new policies and best practices related to data use, to collect feedback, and to conduct compliance audits. Perhaps the team’s greatest responsibility will be acting as an advocate for resources and investment into student privacy, such as training, technical assistance and data coaches.

Second, you should work with your local, state and federal government representatives to advocate for consistent policies and support across the state. By advocating for strong, consistent laws across school district lines based on transparency and accountability, schools and software makers will find it easier to be in compliance, reducing costs and ensuring stronger, more robust data protection for schools. Talk to legislators and policymakers about the importance of secure student data, and their role in ensuring consistent regulations across state lines. The more you can be part of the conversation, the more you can ensure new laws and policies are crafted with your concerns in mind.

Next, understand how your software and service providers use student data. Each app, website and program your students use is limited in how they can use the data they collect and manage. For example, they are prohibited by law from using or disclosing student data for commercial purposes like advertising without parental consent. However, with schools using hundreds of different apps and websites, it can be difficult to weed through countless Terms of Services documents to ensure compliance. Tools like EdProtect make it easy for teachers and administrators to review individual apps and websites, and know at-a-glance whether they comply with state and federal regulations. At the same time, schools are equally responsible for ensuring their contracts with vendors spell out specific requirements for student data privacy, such as stating the district retains ownership of all data, and that the service provider is prohibited from using data in any way they aren’t explicitly given permission for.

Finally, and most importantly, make sure you are constantly communicating your plans to others responsible for student data, with special attention given to parents. By engaging parents in an ongoing conversation about their student’s data, together you'll ensure that the data is safe and secure. Ways to engage parents include sharing lists of apps and websites their children use and posting the safety ratings of those apps and websites on an easy-to-access district website. Report any changes to privacy policies, and obtain parental approval when necessary. Doing so actively draws parents into the conversation and assures them that their child's data is a priority in your school district.

The responsibility for student data belongs to all of us. We help make it easier to do your part with tools that protect your students from data abuse and your district from costly fines and litigation. 

To learn how EdProtect makes your job easier, sign up for a free demonstration today.