Sample Letter: Elected Official

Dear ____________________ (elected official)

As the parent, or legal guardian, of a _____________ School District student, I realize I have the fundamental and legal right to direct the education of my child and protect his/her privacy.

I have deep and on-going concerns about my child’s student data privacy. I would like to cite from a letter from Senator Edward Markey to Secretary of Education Arne Duncan:

The efficient collection, analysis and storage of K-12 students’ academic records hold promise for improving scholastic performance and closing the achievement gap. By collecting detailed personal information about students’ test results and learning abilities, educators may find better ways to educate their students. However, putting the sensitive information of students in private hands raises a number of important questions about the privacy rights of parents and their children.

But sensitive information such as students’ behavior and participation patterns also may be included in files outsourced to third-party data firms and potentially distributed more widely to additional companies without parental consent.

Such loss of parental control over their child’s educational records and performance information could have longstanding consequences for the future prospects of students.

Recent changes to the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) permit “schools to share student data, without notifying parents, with companies to which they have outsourced core functions like scheduling or data management,” according to the Times article. The information shared with private companies may vary from information such as grades, test scores, and attendance records, to other sensitive data such as disability, family relationships, and disciplinary data.

My two main concerns about my student’s data are these:

  1. That as more student data is being requested by more entities, I have concerns about the policies of our district to safely track and protect that data;
  2. and, knowing that child identity theft is the fasting-growing type of identity theft in the country and that data breaches of adult information are continuing to occur, I have concerns that my child’s data will be compromised.

Therefore, I believe:

  • Students’ personal information should be used solely for educational purposes; Student data may never be used for commercial purposes by any third party. While FERPA-protected data held by a private contractor may be used to improve the contractor’s product used by the disclosing entity (the school or district), it may not be used to create or improve products that were never intended for the school or district;
  • Schools and education technology providers should adopt appropriate data security, retention and destruction policies;
  • Parents should be able to access and amend their children’s data, as FERPA provides, even when the database is in the hands of a private company;
  • A school district must publish the agreement with any entity that the district gives data to, in printed and electronic form, and include a thorough explanation of its purpose and provisions;
  • Parents should be notified of the impending disclosure, and be provided with a right to consent;
  • Parents/guardians should be notified of any data breach within 48 hours of discovery of the breach, either thru the entity involved or the district. A description of the nature of the incident, date, time, and description of information lost or compromised should be included;
  • School districts should define what rights families or individuals will have to obtain relief if harmed by improper use or release of their private information, including how claims can be made;
  • School districts should agree to allow no disclosure of public school records until OSPI meets all of its ethical, security, and statutory obligations to the parents and public school children of the city and state;
  • School districts should put the privacy interests of public school children and their families above the interests of OSPI, Smarter Balance and its agents and subsidiaries.

I ask for your support in my effort to protect student data privacy.

Sincerely,

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