Jen Ortega serves as a consultant to EDUCAUSE on federal policy and government relations. She has worked with EDUCAUSE since 2013 and assists with monitoring legislative and regulatory proposals across a range of policy areas, including cybersecurity, data privacy, e-learning, and accessibility.
(August 3, 2015) On July 22, Representatives Todd Rokita (R-IN) and Marcia Fudge (D-OH) introduced the Student Privacy Protection Act (H.R. 3157 [http://edworkforce.house.gov/uploadedfiles/student_privacy_protection_act.pdf]), which would update student privacy safeguards under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, or FERPA (the federal law that governs institutional management and disclosure of student education records).
Congressman Rokita, Chairman of the Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education Subcommittee, and Congresswoman Fudge, Ranking Member of the Subcommittee, cited K-12 schools' increased reliance on technology as the driving force behind their proposed revisions to FERPA. They intend for the legislation to better ensure that student privacy is maintained with classroom use of digital educational materials and applications. As Chairman Rokita said, "Unfortunately, legal safeguards over student privacy have not kept pace with the rapid technological changes taking place in America's classrooms. The bipartisan reforms in this bill will strengthen privacy protections to ensure schools can provide a 21st century education, while keeping their students' personal information safe and secure."
Congresswoman Fudge further explained, "The Student Privacy Protection Act clarifies the definition of student records and how they are kept, increases parental access and consent, strengthens accountability and transparency, and protects student records from dangerous data breaches and theft. It is time our laws reflect today's technological reality." According to the sponsors, the bill makes a number of changes aimed at better assisting schools in protecting their students. It:
- Updates the definition of education records to cover student information connected to classroom technology;
- Prohibits schools or third parties from using student information to market goods or services;
- Codifies a parent's right to review, correct, or limit use of information held on their child;
- Sets standards for safe storage of information and limits access to such records; and
- Requires schools to designate a privacy official to oversee the use of student education records and ensure effective communication between the school and parents on the same.
The Education and the Workforce Committee has released a Fact Sheet on the legislation, which can be found here [http://edworkforce.house.gov/uploadedfiles/fact_sheet_-_student_privacy_protection_act.pdf]. While the bill originates from issues related to K-12 education, FERPA affects the management and disclosure of student education records in higher education as well. EDUCAUSE is therefore analyzing the legislation to determine its implications for colleges and universities, particularly in relation to the bill's potential data security and breach notification provisions. EDUCAUSE will work with others in the higher education community to address any major concerns with lawmakers as appropriate. We do not anticipate, however, that the committee will take action on the bill until after the August recess.