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5 Questions to Ask About Student Data Privacy

Keith Krueger

CEO, Consortium for School Networking

As concerns about data privacy in schools grow more pressing, here are five questions to ask to make sure your child’s data is being protected.

A week seldom goes by without a news story about data privacy and security – systems are hacked, humans make judgment errors, and sometimes a product flaw leads to data release.

Data privacy in schools

Research has shown that school system information is particularly vulnerable. Of sectors that experienced security incidents in 2016, education ranked in the top 10 and rose further up that list in 2019. So it’s more important than ever to understand how your school works to protect your child’s data. It’s a conversation that includes numerous stakeholders: parents, teachers, education technology leaders in the school system, administrators, and superintendents. 

What to know

Here are some questions to consider as you begin or continue your discussions:

  1. How is student data used to inform learning?
  2. Where can we learn about the steps the school system takes to prioritize data privacy and security?
  3. How are technology products reviewed to help ensure that they support innovation and adhere to legal requirements and our school system privacy policies?
  4. Is school staff required to participate in privacy or security training?
  5. In the classroom, what procedures are in place to protect student privacy while providing students with new learning opportunities?

Protecting student data is one of the most complex challenges facing education leaders today.  It’s easy to get stuck and experience complexity-based paralysis, and it can be challenging to keep up with the ever-changing technology.

Resources

School systems have a trusted resource in the Consortium for School Networking (CoSN), dedicated to providing free materials to inform and improve school system technology leaders for over 25 years. This year, CoSN is celebrating the third anniversary of our Trusted Learning Environment (TLE) Seal Program.  The program provides guidance to help school systems build and maintain robust, up-to-date student privacy practices.  More than 16 school districts nation-wide have been awarded their TLE seal by implementing privacy practices that reach across their organizations.

When I talk to edtech leaders across the country, I encourage them to think about moving the conversation from privacy concerns to building trust with parents and the community at large. And that’s only possible when there’s transparency around the strong privacy and security practices that are in place. Taking fear out of the privacy conversation is just one of the benefits of working through the TLE program. These days, that seems like an excellent place to start.

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