In response to mounting parent concern about the privacy of student educational data, the Privacy Technical Assistance Center (PTAC) within the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) recently issued guidance that encourages K-12 school districts to achieve greater transparency in their data practices and offers a number of best practices for school districts to consider in improving transparency.
The DOE divides these best practices into three categories:
- What information to communicate to parents
- How to convey that information
- How to respond to parent inquiries about student data policies and practices.
What should school districts communicate to parents about data practices?
The DOE urges school districts to identify the information they are collecting, explain why they are collecting it, and disclose how they are protecting it. The DOE notes that school districts may want to consider the publication of a data inventory listing the foregoing information at the data element level. The new guidance also suggests that school districts identify the third parties with whom they share information, and the purpose for sharing such information. Finally, the DOE recommends that school districts identify a point of contact for parents who have questions about data practices and encourages districts to seek constructive parent and student feedback to ensure that their policies and practices are truly transparent.
How should school districts convey information about data practices to parents?
The guidance advises school districts to use their websites to communicate data practices to students and parents. School district websites should be user-friendly, searchable, and clear and consistent in the information they provide.
How should school districts respond to parent inquiries about data practices?
The DOE recommends that school districts respond to parent inquiries in a timely manner, after thoughtful and careful consideration. School district should periodically review and evaluate their communication processes to improve their communication and transparency efforts. In short, the guidance offers a number of common sense, cost-effective approaches that school districts should consider when reviewing and updating their student data collection and disclosure practices. If your school district has questions about its data practices or desires assistance in improving transparency in its policies, procedures, and practices, please contact us.
Kristin Edgar is a school law and student data privacy specialist. She may be reached at 303-443-8010 or firstname.lastname@example.org.