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Thursday, May 28, 2015

The Data Privacy Fervor

The activity around student data privacy has reached a new level of fervor, with state and federal legislators locked and loaded, ready to take aim at vendors, districts, and teachers alike. There are an amazing number of parties and organizations weighing in on this very important topic, from parent groups, the Software & Information Industry Association (SIIA), to many educational organizations like the National School Board Association (NSBA) and the National Education Association (NEA). 

There are literally tens of bills pending at the state and federal levels, with assorted rules for companies, districts, and school staff members. California was early to the game with its landmark SOPIPA legislation, which passed in September of last year. Others that joined, like Louisiana, passed laws that place teachers in the crosshairs, with looming large fines and possible jail time for each student data privacy violation. Yes, teachers do need to take protecting student data much more seriously, but are fines or jail time really the answer? We all need to start focusing on the basics, starting with policies, procedures, and staff and student training. 

Regardless of the pending laws affecting us in each of our states, the need to inform staff and students of the dangers of data over sharing and the responsibility to protect it have never been greater. If you are just starting your student data privacy journey, I suggest downloading the excellent Protecting Privacy in Connected Learning toolkit from the Consortium for School Networking (CoSN), which can serve as a privacy roadmap for districts. Also try visiting the Student Data Principles site, Stay Safe Online, and the Privacy Technical Assistance Center, which will give you the ammo needed to start moving your school forward with becoming a student data privacy advocate.