There are many acronyms in education but some of the most talked about recently are FERPA, COPPA and PPRA. And what does all this mean? They are 3 of the main Federal laws that pertain to student data and privacy. As parents, we need to have an understanding of these laws and how they protect our children’s privacy, but it can be confusing, so in an effort to provide information to parents the Future of Privacy Forum, Connect Safely and the National PTA launched the Parent’s Guide to Student Data Privacy to help. This guide provides an overview of the law for students and parents for it’s crucial they understand their rights.
There are increasing number of documents dedicated to addressing student data privacy – the Student Data Privacy Pledge, endorsed by President Obama (shameless plug), the Student Data Principles and now a Parents’ Guide. What is interesting is that they all address different aspects of student data privacy. The Pledge is a voluntary commitment by Ed-Tech companies to safeguard student data. The Data Principles is the education community commitment (teachers, principals, state boards of education, etc.) to build transparency and trust. Both these commitments are important, but the laws that protect student’s privacy and rights can be downright confusing. So in comes the Parent’s Guide to Student Data Privacy which much needed answers to commonly held questions – who has student information, what is FERPA & COPPA, how are they different and what do they protect? When can parents “opt out” of their children’s information from shared?
What is interesting is that all these efforts are conducive to collaboration. They might not be a cure all, but they certainly start the conversation, so let’s discuss the challenges in protecting student data in this rapidly changing world. We must ask questions, ask for comprehensive protections, demand parents be included. Otherwise, their concerns will not be represented.
Regardless of how student data is maintained in schools, parent and student rights remain the same and we must not lose sight of that. We need to know what protections the laws provide as well as how other players in education are committed to protecting student data. I encourage all to refer to the Guide. It has a number of resources for parents wishing to dive deeper, but at a minimum, we now know where to start and can be advocates for our children.