Protecting Your Child's Privacy Rights This School Year

Going thru all those forms in your student's take-home packet?  Consider the following:

- the FERPA form - you have quite the dilemma.  If you do not approve allowing your student's data to go out, you risk your child not being in the yearbook.  (I find this all pretty silly but I believe this is done to get that data.) 

A better directory opt-out form (and one I would have used.)  I think the district could challenge you on this but I think if it's what you submit, well, then you are on record.

Here's what they do in one district in Colorado.   I like this one.

Also on FERPA, it was amended (by our friend, Arne Duncan) to allow districts and other educational entities to allow any group/person with a "legitimate education interest" access to student data.  Here's something to consider;

In CA, the law requires this disclosure proactively by the Districts to parents each year.  (CA Ed Code  49063)

(d) The criteria to be used by the district in defining "school officials and employees" and in determining "legitimate educational interest" as used in Section 49064 and paragraph (1) of subdivision
Actually via FERPA:
Schools/districts must provide parents with an annual notification of their FERPA rights, including the following:

"1. A school and/or LEA must:

a. Establish criteria in the annual notification of FERPA rights about who is a “school official” and what constitutes a “legitimate educational interest”;

b. Determine that the disclosure is to a school official who has a legitimate educational interest in the education records; and

c. Use reasonable methods to ensure that school officials obtain access to only those education records in which they have a legitimate educational interest.

2. If outsourcing institutional services or functions to a third party, outside parties may be considered “school officials” if the outside party

a. Performs an institutional service or function for which the school would otherwise use employees;

b. Is under the direct control of the school with respect to the use and maintenance of education records; and

c. Complies with the PII from education records use and redisclosure requirements."
You can find this language, provided by the U.S. Department of Education Privacy Technical Assistance Center here:
Last thing on FERPA - it does NOT overlap with HIPAA. Any health data collected on your child at school is not covered by HIPAA.  It's part of your child's "educational record."  Keep that in mind.

- digital data.  While I understand many teachers want your child to use certain software in their classrooms, there appears to be no policy that teacher inform you of that.  Not what it is, when it will be used, how often and most of all, what data your child has to give to use it.  Parents Across America has a good list of questions to ask your child's teacher(s).  Also to read from PAA is this thread with many good resources.

To that end, there's the opt-out form from Parents Across America for in-class activities. It's pretty drastic but you could alter it as you see fit.
One could develop an opt-in letter along the lines that you describe. For example, my child can:
1) spend no more than an hour per day on a computing device
2) use computing devices to learn computer programming or conduct research
3) type essays
From Parent Coalition for Student Privacy
Back to school tip: Take control of how your school shares your child's "Directory Information"
Back to school season can be a busy or even stressful time for both parents and children. As the days grow shorter, the “to-do” list grows longer. Number one on the list – because of its importance and time sensitivity – should be to opt out your child from directory information sharing at school.
What is directory information?
According to the U.S. Department of Education, directory information is a limited set of personal “information that is generally not considered harmful or an invasion of privacy if released” and often includes a student’s name, address, telephone number, email address, photograph, date and place of birth, etc.  It does NOT include even more intimate and sensitive personal information like test scores, grades, disability or disciplinary records that schools can legally share with companies, contractors and other third parties without parental knowledge or consent for operational, evaluation, and research purposes. The federal government has allowed these growing number of exceptions through regulatory amendments over the last decade or more, described in detail here and here.
The federal law known as the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) enables schools or school districts to share directory information with any person or organization outside the school/district without parental consent — but only when the school/district provides public notice to parents first. Notice must include:
  • The types of student information that the school/district has designated as directory information;
  • Details about a parent’s right to refuse to allow the school/district to designate any or all of those types of information as directory information; and
  • The amount of time the parent has to notify the school/district in writing that he or she does not want any or all of this information shared with others outside the school.
FERPA allows schools/districts to adopt their own directory information policies, but if they choose to provide students’ directory information to a limited number of third parties, their public notice to parents must specify the individuals, groups or companies who may receive directory information and/or for what purposes. Unfortunately, this public notice may not always be provided, and when it is, it is often difficult to find because it may be buried in hundreds of pages of information during registration, in a student handbook, a parent newsletter, school announcement, local newspaper, or website.
Most schools/districts give parents only ten to thirty days from the start of the school year to exercise their right with regard to directory information, and most offer parents a limited choice between two options:
1) Allow schools and districts to share students’ directory information with anyone including marketing companies and the media — often referred to as “opting in” to sharing directory information; or
2) Refuse to allow schools and districts from sharing directory information with anyone, including parent organizations for purposes of creating school phone directories, graduation brochures, or companies who publish yearbooks — often referred to “opting out” of sharing directory information.
This type of “all-or-nothing” approach presents a huge challenge for many parents. On the one hand, parents don’t want their children’s private information shared with anyone who requests it. On the other hand, most parents would like their children to be included in school-related publications like yearbooks, directories, brochures, and newsletters.
While FERPA doesn’t require schools to allow parents the option to select which types of directory information can be shared with whom, some privacy-minded school districts in Maryland, Montana, and North Carolina, for example, have abandoned the “all-or-nothing” approach for a “menu selection” which gives parents more control over their student’s directory information.
The Parent Coalition for Student Privacy and the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood have prepared a model Directory Information Opt Out form for parents to submit to their schools at the start of the school year, as part of a larger privacy toolkit that we will release soon, via a grant from the Rose Foundation.  Our Directory Information Opt Out form is designed to respect the ability of parents to choose what information they would like shared for what purposes, while also protecting their children’s privacy.
Why should parents opt out?
FERPA became law in 1974 at a time when students’ directory information was used primarily in school-sponsored publications like yearbooks, and to identify student athletes for local newspaper articles. Over the last forty years, individuals, groups and companies have recognized the value of this student information – especially with the creation and growth of the Internet – for commercial and non-educational purposes. Companies who access students’ directory information can sell it to others or use it to market products directly to students, political offices can use it to build their voter tracking systems, thieves can use it to steal identities, and perpetrators can use it to stalk students or commit other crimes.
How can parents opt out?
  1. Ask the school or school district for its “directory information” policy.
  2. If the school/district has a policy, read it carefully to find out which personal details are considered directory information and with whom it can or will be shared.
  3. If the policy forces parents to choose between opting in or opting out of all sharing of directory information, parents should opt out to protect their children’s privacy. However, doing so could mean that their children’s names and pictures will not be listed in the yearbook or other school-related publications.
  4. Share the model Directory Information Opt Out form we have prepared with the school’s principal or other school officials and encourage them to adopt a new policy giving parents more control over their children’s information.
  5. If the school/district does not have a directory information policy, ask if they will be sharing student’s directory information with third parties outside of the school. If the answer is yes, explain that FERPA requires that parents must be given public notice as described above, then complete the model Directory Information Opt Out form and submit it to the school/district. Follow-up in writing to ensure that the request will be honored.
Disclaimer: This commentary does not constitute legal advice. Consult a private lawyer or call your local ACLU should you have specific questions.
 From NPR:  Caution Flags for Tech in Classrooms
"Students who use computers very frequently at school do a lot worse in most learning outcomes, even after controlling for social background and student demographics."

That's right. Lots of computer time meant worse school performance — by a lot.

A little bit of computer use was modestly positive, the authors found. But countries that invested the most in technology for education in recent years showed "no appreciable results" in student achievement.

And, striking at the root of one of the biggest claims made about tech in education, "perhaps the most disappointing finding in the report is that technology is of little help in bridging the skills divide between advantaged and disadvantaged students."
Using students' fingerprints for cafeteria services:
OREGON CITY, Ore. — At elementary schools in Oregon City students will be able to pay for lunch using just a fingerprint, but many parents had no idea it was coming until their kids told them.

"That is a huge violation of our privacy," said Stina Turner, a mother of three students at Gaffney Lane Elementary School.

According to the district website, the scanners will speed up meal service, offer privacy, and convenience at Oregon City elementary schools. It is new this year. 
"You have to get a signature to use my child's picture for anything, and for using her fingerprint for anything you would definitely need a signature for that too," said Turner.

In a statement on Thursday afternoon, the district apologized to parents and said it would delay implementation pending direct parent communications to provide time for parent opt-out.

Sarah Armstrong, a spokesperson with the ACLU of Oregon, says parents should be asking a handful of questions about these scanners like: How long will the data be kept? Who has access to the data? What else can it be used for?

"It sounds like a great form of technology, but not for something to go into an elementary school," said Fletcher. "All our district money should go to furthering education of arts and science and learning, not to make sure the lunch line gets five seconds faster."
More info:

Ruff Ruffman: Humble Media Genius from PBS, “The Internet and You” provides interactive lesson plans about digital privacy, search engines, online advertising, and the creation of positive online experiences that can be used in schools, after-school programs, and beyond. In this free resource for educators, which includes worksheets kids can do at home with their parents or other caregivers, Ruff helps young learners “explore what kinds of information should be kept ‘private,’ as well as consider what kinds of situations might involve their parents or other important people in their lives.” Ruff also helps kids learn how to go about keeping information private; for instance, students are asked to consider whether it’s more effective to keep information on a phone private by putting a passcode on the phone or, when using the phone, “yell[ing], ‘PRIVATE INFORMATION OVER HERE! PAY NO ATTENTION TO WHAT I’M DOING!’”  


Anonymous said…
My kids' elementary, middle and high schools have a separate box that you can check if you want to be included in yearbook.

LM, good to know; thanks.
Anonymous said…
The official SPS FERPA opt out form is much better this year. It's a little confusing, but after generally opting out, you can opt back in for media, your book, the school directory, Internet, and/or class roster.

Anonymous said…
Can someone clarify the status of information collected when a student accesses one of the clinics located onsite at schools? (Not the school nurse.) That information is covered by HIPAA the same as any other medical clinic, right?

I will again ask. I believe you are right about the clinics. But, a SPS school nurse's work is covered by FERPA and becomes part of your child's educational record.

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