Student privacy is a growing area of concern as education delivery moves more and more into a digital realm and the ability to collect, store and share vast amounts of data becomes easier every day. Student data is among some of the most sensitive information that should be protected. In our new digital era, schools outsource their basic functions more than ever – everything from books and tests and attendance records to academic programs and actual student work.
FERPA (the federal student privacy law) is antiquated. It deals mainly with safeguards related to basic demographic information. Congress is working on bills, but has not yet updated FERPA to address 21st century concerns about student data. In light of the shortcomings in federal law, some states have begun to create their own more robust privacy policies. Here in Michigan, I’ve introduced Senate Bill 33.
Parents have a right to know what information about their children is being collected by school districts or state agencies. They especially have a right to know if their children’s information is being shared with third parties, and for what purpose. My bill would establish a very basic, common sense requirement for school districts and state departments who collect information on students to set adequate policies about their collection and storage of student data, and to ensure appropriate disclosure to parents who request it. The bill would also prohibit departments and school districts from selling or otherwise providing personally identifiable student data to for-profit entities.
This bill has passed out of the Senate Education Committee, and I expect the full Senate to take it up soon.