The well-being of students should be your number one priority, and one way to support them is by safeguarding their data.
The more technology and the internet evolve, the more creative hackers have become. Young students are susceptible to these hacks, especially when they need to use the internet at school. Those attacks can be harmful to a student's well-being and may cause legal problems for your district.
In this article, we'll discuss the best practices for protecting student data. We provide insights into your district's responsibilities and the safeguards your staff should implement for all your schools.
Who is responsible for protecting student data?
Ownership of student data protection is spread across a few different parties. There are currently two major laws in place to protect student privacy.
The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) applies to all schools receiving funds under an applicable program of the U.S. Department of Education. This gives parents (or students over age 18) ownership of student records. They have the right to review and request records and must grant schools permission to release student data.
In order to stay compliant with FERPA, schools are required to take precautions to ensure the wrong people can't access student data. A data breach may result in an investigation by the U.S. Department of Education. Although it's incredibly rare, school funding can be withdrawn as a penalty.
Children's Online Privacy Protection Rule (COPPA), on the other hand, focuses on internet usage by students under the age of 13. This rule prohibits the deceptive collection and use of personal information from and about children online. This includes anything from a photo of the child to their Social Security number.
Typically, schools can stay COPPA-compliant by asking parents for consent for their children to use the Internet in the classroom. However, specifics of COPPA compliance can be vague and a little confusing. The smartest way to combat this is by having schools follow policies asking for parental consent as much as possible.
How to develop a data governance plan
The first step in protecting student data is to be proactive. Your staff can do this by creating a data governance plan. This refers to the act of setting district-wide standards that define how student information is gathered, stored, used, and disposed of. Here are some steps to consider when creating your plan:
Appoint data stewards: Your district should implement a clear organizational structure that assigns various responsibilities related to student data protection. Appoint data stewards and provide them with clear responsibility surrounding their accountability.
Standardize data policies and procedures: Decide how the district will collect, store, and use student information. Once those policies and procedures are in writing, share them with every staff member in the district.
Conduct a data inventory: Work with your district's IT leadership to ensure you have the equipment and software needed to build and maintain a secure data inventory.
Regularly check in on your compliance: Review the policies and procedures put into place to ensure your data is accurate and only available to authorized individuals.
What are some best practices for districts to protect student data?
In order to reduce the risk of data breaches, consider the following tips for protecting student privacy:
Practice transparency: Use clear and exact language that explains how student data will be used. This will create open channels of communication between families and the school district.
Leverage third-party data tracking and collection software: There's an increasing amount of EdTech solutions that help school districts manage private student data. For example, schools can leverage technology to purge information that is no longer needed or use software for assistance in adhering to data protection policies.
Training staff to educate students: While teachers are often the first line of defense in protecting student data, it's the district's responsibility to make sure educators have the resources they need to do so. Ensure teachers are up to date on the best practices for protecting student information. When teachers are well-informed, they're equipped to teach students about ways to protect their own privacy.
Implement technical safeguards: One way to protect student privacy is by protecting your networks and devices. Work with your IT team to create firewalls, encrypt student data, and consistently monitor your networks for any potential cybersecurity risks.
Achieve stronger student data safety with Scribbles
It's your responsibility to protect the privacy of students. With constantly evolving technology and growing internet access for students, cybersecurity threats lurk around every corner. Your district needs a plan to protect valuable student data, but you don't have to do it alone. Let Scribbles do the heavy lifting for you.
Include our K-12 Records Management solution as part of your data governance plan. It's designed to transition K-12 districts away from inefficient and non-secure processes toward solutions that provide peace of mind and easy access for staff and families. Easily manage student data in one secure, cloud-based platform.
Contact us today to learn how your district can achieve student records success.
If your district is looking to acquire records management software, download our technology guide by filling out the form below