Student Data Privacy and Data Ethics Scenarios

As schools across the country begin their third school year impacted by COVID-19, student data privacy and data ethics have become much more exigent topics than ever before. Schools continue to grapple with a “new normal” in education, where technology is heavily integrated and classrooms rapidly pivot between in-person and virtual. Teachers are uniquely impacted by these changes and hold distinct roles in upholding student data privacy protections. As a result, educators not only need to receive training on the student privacy laws and district policies that exist but also understand how legal compliance specifically applies to their roles and how to use student data responsibly and ethically.

The Future of Privacy Forum (FPF) has developed a new report entitled “The Case for Including Data Privacy and Data Ethics in Education Preparation Programs” that highlights the need to provide greater professional development opportunities for K-12 teachers to understand how to protect student data and embrace ethical and equitable data practices in the classroom. Previous conversations with privacy experts revealed that school staff want to do the right thing and protect student data, but often lack the necessary support. In order to help give education stakeholders this much-needed support, FPF has created resources to provide valuable information and training about data privacy, data ethics, and protecting student data in education.

The Student Data Privacy Primer is a resource FPF created to provide a succinct overview of data privacy both for stakeholders who are unfamiliar with the topic and for those who would like a refresher. The Student Data Privacy Primer covers student data and student privacy, data ethics and data equity, key laws and district policies, and how school and district leaders can foster a culture of privacy. 

FPF also created 99 Student Data Privacy and Data Ethics Scenarios. These real-world privacy scenarios are curriculum resources that can be integrated into coursework and professional development training, or as assignments, ancillary material, or a complete lesson in educator preparation programs. These scenarios span seven different categories including classroom practices, technology, and communication. In order to best support stakeholders, FPF developed a user guide to assist in how to use the scenarios as a resource for their particular circumstances.

Several professors at colleges for teacher education have found the Student Data Privacy and Ethics Scenarios to be a useful resource to incorporate into their current courses, to educate both teacher candidates and practicing teachers about student data privacy and data ethics:

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Jori Beck, PhD, Assistant Professor of Secondary Education, Old Dominion University

These scenarios are the first resource I have seen on teaching data ethics and privacy rights–important topics that are often overlooked in teacher education. I am excited about these scenarios not only for the content, but for the relevance–my students often ask for discussions around authentic classroom experiences so that they can practice their professional decision making.

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Curby Alexander, PhD, Associate Professor of Professional Practice, Texas Christian University

I found this collection of data ethics scenarios to be useful as a teacher educator. There are so many aspects of student data that early career teachers must consider when they begin working with students, from displaying student work in the classroom to protecting student privacy during remote teaching to managing who has access to student information online. This collection of case studies helped me lead meaningful discussions about the teacher’s role as a steward of student data.


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Dr. Alicia Wenzel, Professor of Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment Division of Education and Leadership College of Education, Western Oregon University

Reflecting on the scenarios did several positive things for our teacher candidates, especially those who were able to discuss the scenarios in teams. First, they became simply aware of student data and privacy issues that they hadn’t considered previously. Second, their foundational knowledge of student data and privacy issues grew allowing them to more intentionally create learning environments and experiences that are safer for students. Third, teacher candidates are now considering ways to protect student data and privacy in subsequent courses and educational experiences showing an ability to transfer knowledge to new and unique situations.