Student Privacy

 

How concerned are you about students’ privacy in Web 2.0 learning spaces such as wikis, blogs, and social media?

 

Student privacy as outlined in FERPA is a Federal law that protects the privacy of personally identifiable information from student education records. As the law applies to personally identifiable information contained in students’ records, it is generally not applicable to other data that a school may collect, such as information on teachers (although there may be other State laws guiding the use and disclosure of that data). The law applies to all educational agencies and institutions, such as schools, school districts, and postsecondary institutions that receive funds under any program administered by the Department. Generally, schools must have written permission from the parent or eligible student in order to disclose any personally identifiable information from that student’s education record. (An “eligible student” is a student who is 18 years old or attending a postsecondary institution at any age.) (US Dept of Education, 2011)

 

It would seem from reading the above regulation that would be fairly clear-cut from the school point of view. The school (K-12 and colleges) could allow Web 2.0, wiki’s and blogs to be a part of the curriculum as long as no identifying information was disclosed within these web instruments. But the problem that could surface is whether the students that the law is trying to protect buy into the rules. It could get sticky for the school/college that hosts these web services on their servers, and the a student reveal personal information about themselves in these forums without their parents knowledge or consent, but then again that’s what students do.

 

The US Department of Educations piece on Safeguarding Student Privacy speaks about stakeholders.

             “All education data holders must act responsibly and be held accountable for safeguarding students’ personally identifiable information – from practitioners of early learning to those developing systems across the education continuum (P‐20) and from schools to their contractors. The need for articulated privacy protections and data security continues to grow as Statewide Longitudinal Data Systems (SLDS) are built and more education records are digitized and shared electronically. As States develop and refine their information management systems, it is critical that they ensure that student information continues to be protected and that students’ personally identifiable information is disclosed only for authorized purposes and under the circumstances permitted by law. All P‐20 stakeholders should be involved in the development of these statewide systems and protection policies. “ (http://www2.ed.gov/policy/gen/guid/fpco/ferpa/safeguarding-student-privacy.pdf)

 

I am not sure how FERPA based on the above really applies to Web 2.0, Wiki’s and Blogs. Unless, of course, the student considers themselves a non-stakeholder and posts significant information about themselves online.

 

The public/private school system is under attack from all sides, from allowing students access to Web 2.0, and other web activities to those that rally against teachers and administrators/staff from contacting students via email, texting, tweets, wiki’s, forums, etc. The more records are digitized and shared electronically, the higher are the chances that someone or some organization will slip-up and disclose this student information.

 

With the advent of the Internet and Web 2.0 access to anyone with a computer, smart phone, tablet – Pandora’s box has been flung open. Technology has its good and not so good sides to it. And schools (K-12) are struggling to cope with all of the demands put upon them to protect the students who access this technology through their networks. The sea of acronyms is mind blowing:

CIPA (http://www.fcc.gov/guides/childrens-internet-protection-act),

FERPA (http://www2.ed.gov/policy/gen/guid/fpco/ferpa/students.html)

PPRA (http://www2.ed.gov/policy/gen/guid/fpco/ppra/index.html)

Elementary & Secondary Education Policies [too many to list]

(http://www2.ed.gov/policy/elsec/guid/edpicks.jhtml?src=ln)

 

New guidelines issued in my school district require teachers/staff/administrators to limit how they make contact with students. Any forms of communication to a student MUST include contact with their parent or guardian. This includes texting, emails, voice calls, face book, or and other line of communication.