Communicating with Parents about Student Privacy


Students boarding school bus

Recently, a number of bills have been proposed at both federal and state levels aimed at protecting student data privacy. Laws, codes of conduct, better contracts and training all play key roles in ensuring that student data will be used responsibly.  However, the most important effort that has yet to be well addressed is the communication between schools and parents.

At FERPA|SHERPA, we highlight some school districts that have succeeded in offering parents a clear description of the technologies they use and the data collected.  We were pleased to recently come across another great example of parent communication at the Smithfield Public School District in Smithfield, RI.  Smithfield provides an informational webpage that informs parents about the applications used in the district, the purposes for which they are being used and what information they collect. The webpage also provides links where parents can see the privacy policy, terms and conditions and other relevant information about the educational applications.

Kudos as well to Smithfield for designating two leading school officials, Paul Barrette, the school department’s director of technology, and Craig Levis, special education director, as the privacy leads for the district.  It is essential that schools appoint privacy officers and institute appropriate training if we expect compliance with laws and policies.

Please let us know of any other schools that have provided helpful communications for parents, so that we can share great examples that the school community can learn from.