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Federal Student-Data-Privacy Legislation to Be Introduced in U.S. House



Proposed student-data-privacy legislation being championed by President Barack Obama is being readied for introduction in the U.S. House of Representatives, perhaps as soon as the end of this month.

In a joint statement released today, U.S. Reps. Luke Messer, a Republican from Indiana, and Jared Polis, a Democrat from Colorado, said they anticipate putting forward a bill soon. 

"We are excited to be working together to protect student privacy in this age of digital learning," the statement reads. "There have been important innovations in classroom instruction over the last few years. It's important we all work together to find the balance between new technology in the classroom and a parent's right to protect their child's privacy."

The bill is expected to hew closely to the framework outlined by the president during a speech last month at the Federal Trade Commission, as well as the language in a draft bill obtained by Education Week last week. 

Both Messer and Polis serve on the Education and the Workforce Committee in the U.S. House.

The pair was also heavily involved in the creation of a voluntary industry pledge to protect students' information that has been put forth by two Washington-based groups: the Software & Information Industry Association, a trade group, and the Future of Privacy Forum, a think tank. More than 100 companies have now signed the pledge.

Polis, elected to Congress in 2008, has a background as an Internet entrepeneur, including founding Proflowers.com. He also served for six years on the Colorado state board of education and founded two charter schools.

"He has seen the tremendous benefits that innovative technologies can bring to the classroom," said Scott Overland, Polis's communications director, in an interview.

"He's also a parent, and he shares the concerns that many parents have," Overland said. "He wants to make sure these new technologies are able to move forward unimpeded and provide benefits to students and make learning more individualized, without the fear that companies are misusing student information."

Also on Thursday, the White House posted online an "interim progress report" on its work related to big data and privacy. The statement confirms that the White House is working with Reps. Messer and Polis on the new student-data-privacy proposal:

We're also moving forward with the commitment the President made last month to ensure that student educational data is used only for educational purposes. The Administration has been working with a bipartisan group of legislators, and today Congressman Luke Messer (R-ID) and Congressman Jared Polis (D-CO) will announce that they will be introducing legislation to fulfill that promise.

Photo: U.S. Rep. Jared Polis, D-Colo., looks on during the Colorado Democratic Party's State Assembly in Denver last April.--David Zalubowski/AP-File

An earlier version of this story including a misspelling of the last name of U.S. Rep. Jared Polis. The correct spelling is now included. 

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