FPF Releases Guide to Disclosing Information During School Emergencies


December 20, 2018
Contact: Amelia Vance, Director of Education Privacy & Policy Counsel, [email protected], (202)-688-4161.
Nat Wood, [email protected], (410)-507-7898

FPF Releases Guide to Disclosing Information During School Emergencies
In Blog, FPF Expert Notes School Safety Report “Offers Little Guidance” on Privacy

WASHINGTON, DC – The Future of Privacy Forum released a guide to help school officials understand their ability under the law to share information about students in an emergency situation. The primary federal student privacy law, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), allows for exceptions to its general requirement that parents must approve information sharing during emergencies, including natural disasters, health crises, terrorist threats or active shootings. The guide explains:

    • schools’ obligations
    • opportunities for discretion under the law
    • to whom schools can disclose information,
    • what can be disclosed
    • limits on schools’ risk of liability.

FPF also published a blog post by Sara Collins, Tyler Park, and Amelia Vance of FPF’s Education Privacy Project, reviewing the very limited discussion of privacy issues in the Federal Commission on School Safety report released yesterday. While the report does include some information on acceptable data sharing during an emergency, it does not address how to implement security measures while including appropriate privacy protections. For example, the report recommends the use of “appropriate systems to monitor social media and mechanisms for reporting cyberbullying incidents” but does not mention the privacy implications of such monitoring or appropriate privacy protections, despite FPF’s comments on this issue.

“Unfortunately, the report offers little practical guidance to school officials on how to consider privacy safeguards as they implement programs to monitor threats, harden schools or train personnel,” said the authors. “Privacy doesn’t seem to have been a top concern for the Commission, even though its members heard testimony about ways to have both security and privacy.”