The transition to online learning has reaffirmed that parents are essential partners in students’ educational journeys, including keeping their personal information safe. As such, parents should be informed of their rights, what information a school collects about their child, and how it is used and protected. Parents should also be engaged with the school or district in the development, implementation, and review of student privacy and security policies and practices. Here are five key takeaways from the Student Privacy Communications Toolkit for parents:
- Schools collect a range of data about your child.
Beyond the typical demographic information such as name, age, gender, race, and ethnicity that is requested when registering a student for school, schools also track academic performance data (like grades, test scores, time-on-task), attendance, discipline and health records, observational data about a student’s behavior or interests, and college and career goals.
- Schools use student data to help your child succeed.
Student data provides important information to support your child’s educational journey so that they are prepared to succeed in college, career, and life. Data helps improve a student’s educational experience by allowing educators to track student progress and plan appropriate interventions if or when they are needed.
- You have the right to access, review, and seek to amend your child’s data.
The primary federal education privacy law, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), grants parents several rights, including the right to inspect and review records maintained by the school and the right to seek to amend records they believe are misleading, inaccurate, or otherwise in violation of a student’s privacy. Parents also have the right to file a complaint with the Department of Education if they believe their rights under FERPA have been violated.
- A few other people may also have access to your child’s data, but only in certain and very controlled situations.
Educators, staff members, and third-party service providers are only given access to the specific pieces of data required to do their jobs. If a third-party service provider needs access to limited student data to successfully perform its role with the school or district, contracts generally include strict controls and consequences to ensure the protection of student data.
- Have specific questions of the school or district? Don’t be afraid to ask… and do some homework first.
Does your child’s school or district have a website where they discuss student privacy, and what edtech tools are being used in the classroom? What notifications or forms did you receive at the beginning of the year? These resources can be good places to start to understand your school or district’s current privacy policies and practices. From there, other questions you may wish to ask your child’s school or district include:
- Who oversees student data in our school or district?
- What kind of security measures are in place to protect my child’s data?
- How can I view the data you have collected about my child?
- How long does the school or district maintain data about my child?
- How does the school or district hold outside service providers accountable for maintaining the confidentiality of the student data they receive?
- Does the school or district have an approval system before teachers adopt new apps or software that collect student personal information?
The new Student Privacy Communications Toolkit from the Future of Privacy Forum includes detailed resources and information on protecting and preserving student privacy. While the toolkit was developed with school and district leaders in mind, it contains information, advice, and recommendations of interest to all education stakeholders. FPF will continue to share these audience-specific best practices and tips in the coming weeks.
To view and download the full Student Privacy Communications Toolkit, click here.