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What Is a School District’s Role in Protecting Student Data Privacy?

What Is a School District’s Role in Protecting Student Data privacy?

Frederick County Public Schools in Frederick County, Maryland has one thing in common with many school districts across the country- it has begun the process of implementing Chromebooks for its students use.

The district formerly had a bring-your-own-device policy (BYOD), but like many other schools are figuring out, the increasingly reduced price of Chromebooks and the ease of use helps them to be an economically feasible option for one-to-one initiatives.

However, with the process of implementing new technology comes a series of obstacles that districts must overcome; as Frederick County Public Schools begin implement Chromebooks, they are beginning to tackle the issue of protecting student privacy through protecting student data.

FCPS has taken numerous actions so far to ensure that student privacy is protected when using Chromebooks.

"Students don’t create their own accounts for use on the Chromebooks, and the computers operate within an FCPS domain, which protects them some from the rest of the 'Google environment,’ Derek Root, the FCPS director of technology infrastructure told The Frederick News-Post.

"Students can’t email or send documents through Google Drive to the outside world, for example, and even if a student takes the Chromebook home to connect on a different wireless network, content is still filtered – so Facebook or inappropriate content is not accessible,” the article said.

Google itself has pledged that in Google Apps for Education, the programs connected to Chromebook, no advertising whatsoever will be featured in the range of products.

But some parents still have concerns that the district isn’t doing enough- and if they are, haven’t yet communicated it to them.

"Flemming Paschal, of Frederick, said she questioned the school district back in 2012-13 about protecting student data,” the article said.

"Paschal said when the bring-your-own device concept started to take hold in the school district, she disliked that the school system could review students’ devices while they were connected to the FCPS wireless Internet.”

And now, she says parents have not been kept in the loop since the district began handing out Chromebooks.

“There’s still no real answer,” she said, when it comes to how the district is protecting student data.

This raises the question that has bogged down technology implementation for the past year: what is the school districts role in protecting student privacy, and how should they best communicate with parents to provide peace of mind?

According to EdSurge, the risk of educational technology poses to student privacy is the major concern stressing tech directors out these days.

"We all expect privacy for ourselves and for our families, irrespective of the law, and we expect that privacy to be maintained when our children are at school,” EdSurge says.

Teachers, EdSurge says, are crucial to helping lessen the risk of student data breaches.

EdSurge references Cupertino Union School in California, where teachers submit tools they want to use for approval prior to implementation to ensure each product passes a privacy checklist. Privacy checklists, EdSurge says, is a must.

As for the school and the districts part, it is essential that they ‘rewrite the social contract’ between students and parents to reshape privacy policy.

"It is in everyone’s interest to help rewrite this contract,” EdSurge says.

Perhaps concerned parent Flemming Paschal of FCPS would agree.

Article by Nicole Gorman, Education World Contributor

2/1/2016

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