Long gone are the days when protecting student information meant
locking a filing cabinet. Today, with students using hundreds of different
apps over the course of their education, software providers obscuring how they
use data in complicated Terms of Service contracts, and an ever-shifting legal
landscape, it can be extremely difficult for administrators, teachers and
parents to know exactly what they need to do to protect their student data.
Over the next few posts we’ll be exploring the different factors
affecting the world of student data. Our goal is to demystify the subject of
student data privacy and help bring you up to speed so you can address this
serious topic in your school district.
Today we’re starting by taking a current snapshot of the legal
landscape. Federal laws like the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) and
the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) work
to ensure student data is only used for authorized purposes; protects that data
from further disclosure or other uses, like marketing or being resold to
others; and mandates that it is destroyed when no longer needed for the
While these laws lay a foundation for educators and online
operators to follow, they don't necessarily cover all aspects of data
collection and deletion. For this reason, many states are now creating their
own, more specific student data privacy laws to define what is and what isn't
acceptable when it comes to the collection of student information in their
Over the past two years, nearly every state has introduced its
own legislation addressing student data privacy. In 2014, California
passed the Student Online Personal Information Protection Act
(SOPIPA), the first of its kind, which has since been used as the
model for much of the legislation being introduced by other states.
Many of these are focused on creating greater transparency and
accountability for educational data, clarifying the data and privacy activities
of third-party service providers, and giving parents the ability to have a
say in the management of their children's privacy. They generally
fall into two types of approaches: prohibitive rules that seek to limit or halt
certain types of collection or uses; or governance rules that seek to establish
procedures, roles and responsibilities. In addition, numerous bills have
established fines and penalties for data misuse and breaches to ensure accountability.
However, for everyone with a stake in education - teachers,
parents, school & district leaders, and state & federal policymakers - the new challenge is knowing what all this actually means and understanding
how to properly implement an effective plan to manage student privacy.
Thankfully, there are resources available to help.
The U.S. Department of Education’s Privacy Technical
Assistance Center (PTAC) is a terrific resource for understanding
your legal requirements and what steps you need to take to establish
compliance. The Privacy Toolkit in particular provides a
useful centralized depository of materials to guide schools and districts
looking to improve the security and privacy of their student data.
In addition, groups like the Future of Privacy Forum (FPF) and the Software and Information Industry Association (SIIA) seek to create change from the industry
side by encouraging members to sign the Student
Privacy Pledge, committing to use student data in a
responsible way. The pledge is intended to hold school service providers accountable and encourage effective communication with parents, teachers and education officials about
how student information is used and safeguarded.
Tools like EdProtect take it one step further and actually manage the process for you. Designed to protect students from data abuse, it ensures that
schools and districts are in complete compliance with various federal and state
regulations, engages parents in the privacy conversation, and lessens the risk
of costly fines and penalties associated with the mismanagement of student information. Resources like this are crucial for helping
administrators, IT staff and teachers proactively manage their student privacy
obligations with transparency and accountability.
To learn how EdProtect makes your job easier, sign up for a free demonstration today.