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Privacy Policies: Must-Have for School Web Sites

Administrators will enjoy these helpful school public relations tips shared by EducationWorld Community blogger Maris Callahan. Be sure to read all of her great advice on PR for schools.

An important marketing tool for any organization is a Web site. Because it will be the first experience many people have with your school, it is important to make it professional with a clear, precise design and user-friendly navigation.

Maris Callahan

However, because a lot of organizations are wary of laws related to privacy protection, many elect not to use any online services. 

According to the Information and Online Privacy Act, which provides standards for schools that collect personal information, all public/government-affiliated schools are mandated to have a privacy statement on their Web sites. If you are working with a professional Web developer, he or she may have the resources to have a privacy statement written for you, but if you are on your own, you are still expected to provide one. Though they might sound complicated, privacy statements are straightforward and hardly require a six-figure attorney to be done properly.

Determine your facts.  Before you begin writing your statement, sit down with your adminstration and decide what types of information you might possibly need to collect from visitors. Will you ask users to input their name, address, phone number and email addresses to sign up for scholastic events? Will you keep their e-mail addresses on file when they fill out a satisfaction survey or sign up for your e-newsletter? Will you sell school apparel online and ask for a credit card number? Note all of this information and be sure to include it in your privacy policy.

Determine your purpose.  Decide how you plan to use the information you collect. Will you use it to improve your Web site or school programming, or to collect feedback from parents? Will you incorporate social media elements such as a homework board or assignment-sharing portal? Will you ever contact the visitors with the information that you collect? State all of this information in your privacy policy, including whether you will email your visitors and if so, how they can unsusbcribe from unwanted mailings.

Choose an appropriate format for your privacy policy.  Before you begin writing, access free templates and sample privacy policies available all over the internet. Some are one simple paragraph, while others, like the New York City Public School System's, are more in-depth. Once you determine what information you'll need, look at other schools' privacy policies for reference and to draw inspiration. You can also source templates online to guide your own policy.

Outsource as your last resort.  If you are struggling with writing your privacy policy, don't abandon it altogether--outsource it! A number of public schools throughout the country work with the Web development service SchoolFusion, which can take care of all the details for you.

About the author

A social media expert, freelance writer and public relations professional for many high-profile companies, Maris Callahan is the author and publisher of the food blog In Good Taste and the new Chicago online lifestyle magazine My Daily Find Chicago.


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