As news proliferates about data breaches and cyber-crime, many parents have legitimate concerns about what schools and districts are doing to protect their children’s personal information.
But many school leaders don’t talk about data privacy because the rules and regulations are complex, and it can be difficult to know how and when to inform parents about data privacy.
Here are nine tips for talking about student data privacy with parents:
Be transparent with parents.
Don’t wait for parents to ask; proactively provide information students and parents need about safety and security. Take away the mysteries and misunderstandings about what is going in a student's "permanent file." Provide all the school policies, rules and guidelines for how they collect, use, protect and share data.
Ensure every educator knows their role.
It's everyone's job to provide security and safety but the roles of districts, principals and classroom teachers are different. Work within your organization to define roles. Then ensure that everyone has a clear understanding of what they can share and with whom.
Name a data privacy point person.
There should be one person and place in the organization responsible for data privacy answers. In some districts, there is a designated privacy officer. There should always be at least one highly trained person that parents and students can contact with their questions and concerns.
Ask parents' permission about digital tools.
Make information available on the web and on paper about the online tools being used and links to their privacy policies. Then ask parents to sign off on the tools. If they have safety concerns, give options. This can be part of your organization’s responsible use policy.
Allow parents to recommend apps and tools.
If parents discover internet tools that are helpful, provide a form where they can submit their ideas so a district committee can vet the tools.
Offer data security training to staff and parents.
Offer training so parents, caregivers and students can be well informed. No time for training? Then share resources like the Internet Keep Safe Coalition for useful information.
Be ready to share data info promptly.
Students, families and educators should have timely access to information collected about the student whenever they ask for it. Information delays discourage inquiries.
Have a plan in case of mistakes.
Tell parents how they will be notified if there is any misuse or breach of information and be ready to provide remedies.
Avoid acronyms and edu-speak.
FERPA. COPPA. PPRA. Parents may be familiar with the technical terms and acronyms surrounding data privacy, but don't overuse them with a general audience without explanations. You'll know when you're overdoing it when people respond with another acronym, MEGO (my eyes glaze over).