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Parents' Guide to Student Data-Privacy Policy Released by Advocacy Group

By guest blogger Audrey Armitage

The Future of Privacy Forum released a guide this week to help parents understand student-data-privacy policies and clarify students' and parents' protections under the law.

The National Parent-Teacher Association and Connect Safely, a California nonprofit promoting safe online technology use, worked with the FPF, a Washington-based organization that advocates for the responsible use of data, in publishing the online resource.

The new parent resource provides details about who can access students' data, what education companies can do with student information, what laws are in place to protect student data, and when parents can opt out of sharing their child's information.

The guide breaks down major laws governing student data access and use, so that parents will know what rights and protections they have when it comes to their child's education information, said Brenda Leong, FPF senior council and director of operations, in an interview.

The federal Children's Online Privacy Protection Act is a key focus of the guide. COPPA limits data collection by companies who market online services to children under 13, and requires parental consent for sharing certain information. "It's about promoting vendor responsibility," Leong said.

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, written in the 1970's to help parents access children's education records, is another core component of student data policy. The guide explains how parents can use the provisions outlined in FERPA to view their child's school information.

Current student data laws "do a good job at what they were designed to do," said Leong, but some of the laws were written before electronic records in schools became common practice. With more third parties now able to access student data, such as learning management systems and online assessment programs, Leong argued that data policies need to be updated to fit today's digital environment.

For specific suggestions on data-protection best practices, Leong recommends schools refer to the Student Privacy Pledge, which details steps schools and educational vendors can take to limit data collection and prevent student data from being used for commercial purposes.

In regards to the newly proposed Student Digital Privacy and Parental Rights Act introduced this week by Reps. Luke Messer, R-Ind., and Jared Polis, D-Colo., Leong said FPF sees the legislation as a "useful progression of the conversation about data privacy," but would like to see more parental consent measures to allow parents greater discretion over student-data-sharing and use. 


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