Should we all opt out?

Should we all opt out?

A new school year is just around the corner and my kids will be attending new schools. Not only am I excited about the school year ahead and the experiences of being in a new school, I am also curious to see what kind of Directory Information opt out forms we receive. Should we all opt out of Directory Information? This is certainly an opt out I would consider. It is a clear way for parents to control their children’s data and prevent Directory Information from being shared with third parties.

Opting out of directory information is probably the most misunderstood of opt outs. Directory Information can be anything from student’s name, address, telephone, and email address to weight and height of students, grade level and photographs. Directory Information opt out prevents your child’s personal information from being shared, for example the team roster with student names, a playbill for the school play or the Honor Roll listing in a newspaper. There are other ways opting out prevents Directory Information from being shared with third parties unknown to parents that could legally request this information, such as marketers. It’s important to keep in mind that a school can’t just decide to share this information. Schools have to officially declare which information they consider to be directory information and then they have to notify parents of their right to opt out of sharing this information.

However, as with any privacy and or legal discussion there is the other side of the argument. If you opt out your child’s information, there could be certain opportunities forgone, outside school program opportunities or in the case of High School kids, scholarship opportunities or other university or college correspondence they will not receive when opting out of Directory Information. Further, student’s information will not be listed in the school directory and other families will not have access to phone numbers or emails, for example, unless you provide them directly to whomever is interested in connecting. So the decision to opt out needs to be done based on what works best for each family. Also worth noting is what opting out of Directory Information doesn’t do – it doesn’t prevent students from participating in testing or other education mandated activities. This opt out only applies to schools providing information to other parties outside the school.

How did this option of opting out come into being? Well, FERPA, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, was enacted in 1974 to ensure parents had access to their children’s educational records and to protect the privacy of this sensitive information. As a parent or guardian, you have the right to inspect your children’s records, request corrections be made and opt out of your school sharing Directory Information with third parties. Under FERPA, parents and students have the right to tell schools they cannot share their directory information with a third party.

It’s relatively simple to opt out (although finding the opt out forms on a school website can be nearly impossible). You can request a Directory Information opt out form from your child’s school, fill it out and return it to the school. And the best time to request the opt out form is at the beginning of the school year before schools begin to share information with third party providers.

If your school doesn’t have a FERPA form, you can download one here

The World Privacy Forum recently released a great video explaining why it’s important to #optout. Check it out here!

There are many other resources for FERPA Opt out information such as the National Opt-Out Campaign and of course our own Student Privacy Compass (more shameless plugs)!

Wishing all the students going back to school all the best for a most fantastic (and private) school year!






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