School board members want to ensure student data privacy

By | April 27, 2018 11:08 am

Tennessee school board members have been actively addressing the issue of student data privacy and are urging Congress to consider changes to the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). During the November 2017 Tennessee School Boards Association annual business meeting, TSBA members overwhelmingly approved a resolution that called for changes to FERPA that would provide much needed privacy protections for students.

TSBA wants Congress to exclude certain items from the definition of “directory information”. Directory information is data which may be disclosed to a third party. School districts compile a significant amount of personal data on students. Currently, in addition to a student’s name, FERPA defines “directory information” as a student’s address, phone number, and date and place of birth.  TSBA wants to prevent the release of sensitive student data.  Identity theft and data breaches have become pervasive nationwide affecting school districts, major corporations, credit reporting agencies, and even the federal government. The data included in the current definition of “directory information” is valuable to hackers who wish to commit identify theft.  It is TSBA’s position that eliminating these items from the definition of directory information will increase security and protect students’ personal information.

TSBA also wants Congress to ensure student data maintained in electronic media is considered a student record. Records must no longer be thought of only as paper files stored in a filing cabinet. In fact, even student learning is quickly evolving from an in-person experience at a school building, to an ongoing process in which students are connected to information and teacher input through various technologies. This is why TSBA believes student data maintained in an electronic media format must be explicitly protected by federal law.

TSBA also submitted their FERPA resolution to the National School Boards Association (NSBA)  annual business meeting in April where it was adopted and became part of NSBA’s legislative agenda.

TSBA urges school board members to reach out to their Congressmen and Senators and ask them to support these changes to FERPA. By working together, we can ensure our students’ personal information is protected from those who wish to do harm.

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