We all know how important it is for parents to have open lines of communication with their children’s school. Parents want to be champions for their children and to protect their interests and to do this they need information. When it comes to information that is stored digitally, parents often ask questions such as:
- What information are you collecting about my child?
- Why do you need that information, and what do you use it for?
- How do you safeguard my child’s information?
I’m pleased to announce the release of new Privacy Technical Assistance Center (PTAC) guidance regarding transparency best practices for schools and districts. This document provides a number of recommendations for keeping parents and students informed about schools’ and districts’ collection and use of student data.
The recommendations can be divided into three main categories: what information schools and districts ought to communicate to parents; how to convey that information in an understandable way; and how to respond to parent inquiries about student data policies and practices.
Some of the best practices covered in the document include:
- making information about student data policies and practices easy to find on districts’ and schools’ public webpages
- publishing a data inventory that details what information schools and districts collect about students, and what they use it for
- explaining to parents what, if any, personal information is shared with third parties and for what purposes
- using communication strategies that reduce the complexity of the information, and telling parents where they can get more detailed information if they want it.
The document also encourages schools and districts to be proactive when it comes to communicating about how they use student data.
We’re also pleased to direct you to the new website for our FERPA compliance office, the Family Policy Compliance Office, or FPCO. The new website is more user-friendly and will help school officials, parents, and students find the information they are looking for. It’s still a work in progress and we have many new features that we hope to launch in the coming weeks. We will soon begin posting FPCO’s decision letters from prior complaints and we will be launching an online community of practice for school officials to share information, templates, and lessons learned.
Kathleen M. Styles is Chief Privacy Officer at the U.S. Department of Education.