Today, twenty-five education, healthcare, disability rights, civil liberties, and data protection organizations released ten principles for student privacy and equity to help guide schools and districts as they provide for students during the COVID-19 pandemic. Rather than serve as a replacement for in-depth policies, these principles are intended to help all education stakeholders navigate the new normal by raising key privacy and equity considerations.
The COVID-19 global health crisis introduced several concerns for students, their families or caregivers, and school staff during the Spring 2020 school semester. As schools continue to start school virtually and develop virtual contingency plans, many are adopting new or relying on existing technology platforms to deliver educational services. When developing plans for safely returning to school in-person and attempting to meet local, state, and federal mandates, schools are making broad requests for sensitive information from students and staff. Additionally, many schools are incorporating technology programs that collect sensitive information to prevent the spread of COVID-19. For example, some schools have adopted technology that tracks student location for adherence to social distancing policies or require students and staff to enter their health information into an app every day. Schools must consider the potential benefits of such programs as well as the associated equity and privacy risks they pose to students, and the heightened risks posed to marginalized students. However, the burden of safely reopening schools in-person should not fall solely on school administrators and local leadership. State and federal policymakers must provide schools with the resources and guidance they desperately need so that schools can reopen—physically and virtually—in a safe, equitable, and privacy-protective manner.