These days, information is shared more often and faster than ever. We live in a time when something is posted online and it goes viral in a matter of hours. Ensuring the privacy of student information is extremely important for many reasons. Companies should not be allowed to market to students using student performance or information. Students have to have the confidence that their performance isn’t being shared with the public, which ensures confidentiality of who they are as students.
Due to these reasons, student data privacy has jumped to the forefront in tech discussions. These discussions can make some people feel hesitant about using technology, which then can become restrictive to what we can accomplish as educators. Educating yourself about how to handle student data will help calm those fears and help you treat data as it should be treated. We at My Day Web App want to include our users in this discussion to help make them aware of the roles each of us plays in ensuring student privacy. Technology is a part of today’s classroom, and its uses will continue to grow. As educators, we need to grow with it.
What is FERPA?
FERPA is called the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (a federal law), and it protects the privacy of student records. The following information in this section is summarized from the U.S. Department of Education’s website.
First, FERPA ensures that schools must notify parents about FERPA and their rights under it every year. It also allows parents and guardians the right to inspect educational records of their children until their children turn 18. Then 18 year-olds receive this same right.
More About Student Educational Records
Educational records, according to the U.S. Department of Eduction, are:
“…records that are directly related to a student and that are maintained by an educational agency or institution or a party acting for or on behalf of the agency or institution. These records include but are not limited to grades, transcripts, class lists, student course schedules, health records (at the K-12 level), student financial information (at the postsecondary level), and student discipline files. The information may be recorded in any way, including, but not limited to, handwriting, print, computer media, videotape, audiotape, film, microfilm, microfiche, and e-mail.”
Source: 34 CFR § 99.2 “Education Records” and “Record.”
In other words, no matter how you record the information, once you start tying student names to performance, this information could fall under the definition of an educational record.
Schools must ask permission to give out student records and information, but schools can disclose student records without permission such as when subpoenaed by a court, for health and safety reasons, and to other school officials that have a legitimate educational interest.
What is Directory information?
Sometimes there is information that is personally identifiable but is not an educational record. This information might be considered directory information. FERPA defines directory information as “information contained in an education record of a student that would not generally be considered harmful or an invasion of privacy if disclosed.” 34 CFR § 99.3. Schools must inform parents when they collect directory information, but they do not need consent to do so. One way schools do this is by listing directory information that they collect in a public document given to parents or guardians. FERPA gives parents time to opt out and deny the disclosure of directory information. It is important to know what the parents of your students requested. Some types of directory info include a student’s name (including initials), address, telephone number, date of birth, user ID or email address of a student (if not using a password or PIN), and attendance.
How We At My Day Web App Keep Data Private
FERPA and student data privacy compliance are of utmost importance to us here at My Day Web App. We value each parent’s right to choose what information is shared about their student and the ability for students’ information to stay private.
What You Can Do To Keep Student Data Private
- If you want to be extra cautious, instead of using a student’s name, you can choose to use a random pseudonym, code, or letter that does not reference anything in student directory information or personally identifiable information. This has two benefits:
- If the parent or student has denied disclosure of directory information, this is an alternative.
- Any educational records tied to the pseudonym or random code cannot be tied back to the actual student, so you are not disclosing their educational records to anyone, which complies with FERPA rules.
- Understand what you are allowed to share and not share with web services. There are three ways that you may already be allowed to input student information, including names, without improperly disclosing information:
- Your district may define all web service providers as school officials with legitimate educational interest,
- OR the district can specifically name My Day Web App in a list of web service providers that are school officials with legitimate educational interest,
- OR you can obtain parent or student consent (if 18) to input data on My Day Web App.
For more information on FERPA, please reference the U.S. Department of Education’s website.