By: Toni Norris, Law Clerk
Technology has become an integral part of public education as we know it. With advancements in technology steadily progressing throughout society, the use of electronic resources continues to extend further into classrooms and school systems as a whole. The increased use of online educational tools as a part of the learning program in and outside the classroom has heightened the need for precautions related to protecting students’ personally identifiable information. As these tools launch classrooms into the digital age and expand students’ abilities to learn, develop content, share information, and gain critical skills, it is important to consider protecting students’ data, securing students’ privacy and maintaining the trust of parents. Recently, the Family Policy Compliance Office (FPCO), designated to investigate, process, and review complaints under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) has been giving greater attention to the practice of contracting for education technology services.
While there may be exceptions to FERPA requirements, parents and eligible students cannot be required to waive their rights and protections accorded under FERPA as a condition of acceptance into an educational institution or receipt of educational services.
When using third party online education tools, here are some important things to keep in mind:
- Maintain direct control
- Be transparent
The Department of Education encourages school districts to be as open as possible with parents and students. Inform all relevant parties of their rights under federal and state laws and clearly explain how, when, and with whom student data is being shared. Even where consent may not be required, schools should consider whether it is appropriate.
- Research and Maintain Awareness
Researching and evaluating educational service providers allows for privacy and security concerns to be adequately considered. Keeping a running list of the online educational services being used within your school system further allows officials to evaluate which services are most effective, but also actively exhibits what information is being shared with providers.
Protecting student data and monitoring online tools is an ongoing process. It is not only important to stay current on relevant laws and practices, but also to review each online educational tool individually. The effective use of online educational resources depends on the proper implementation by the school system.
PK Law’s Education Group represents a number of public and private employers on labor and employment issues. The majority of the Group’s practice involves the representation of public school boards across the State of Maryland as well as a number of public and private higher education institutions and private schools. For additional information click HERE or contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Toni Norris s a law clerk at PK Law. She is currently completing her third year of law school at the University of Maryland Carey School of Law and has accepted a position as an associate at the firm upon graduation.