On July 3, the Future of Privacy Forum (FPF) interviewed Libbi Garrett, Resource Program Specialist at California Educational Technology Professionals Association (CETPA), about two great student data privacy resources: the California “Data Privacy Guidebook” and the “Ask Before You App” video tool. The guidebook provides privacy guidelines, practical tips, and best practices to help school districts comply with student data privacy laws in California and other states. The video is a handy reference to help education professionals integrate educational apps and tools safely, responsibly, and effectively. These resources are part of a collaborative project by CETPA, the California County Superintendents Educational Services Association (CCSESA), and the eMatters group at Fagen Friedman & Fulfrost, LLP (F3).
In the interview, Libbi describes the background for the creation of these resources and their suitability for a wide audience of education stakeholders.
FPF: Please tell us about the “Data Privacy Guidebook.”
Libbi: The “Data Privacy Guidebook” is intended to give school districts insight into best practices for handling student data issues and to provide direction for handling data privacy within their district from a legal perspective. There are several different pieces to the data puzzle, and we wanted to put the pieces together to provide real examples and guidelines for best practices.
FPF: What was the background for creating this resource?
Libbi: In 2014 California saw an influx of new legislation being discussed and put into practice. For example, the Student Online Personal Information Protection Act (SOPIPA), the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (FERPA), and especially Assembly Bill No. 1584, “Pupil Records: Privacy, 3rd-Party Contracts, Digital Storage Services and Digital Educational Software” (AB-1584), were the catalyst for many of these discussions. While previous laws partially touched on edtech privacy issues, AB-1584 pulled these issues together. It also gave very specific parameters for how school districts, and particularly K-12 educators, should handle student data, and describes the processes and policies that need to be in place for working with vendors, sharing data, or in the event of a data breach. When AB-1584 and additional laws were on the horizon, districts had no real way to understand what actual processes should look like. Around that time, CETPA partnered with the Student Data Privacy Consortium (SDPC) and Fagen Friedman & Fulfrost, LLP (F3) to create this and other resources, including the “Ask Before You App” video tool, with training provided by F3, to help school districts and technology vendors in California get ahead of the curve, avoid confusion, and achieve compliance with relevant student data privacy laws.
It is everyone’s job to manage student data privacy, and each person plays a different role to accomplish this goal. In particular, it is important that teachers get involved in these discussions, as they are often the ones making the decisions about the tools and technologies used in the classroom.
FPF: Who should be reading this resource? Is it for school administrators, teachers, or perhaps for parents as well?
Libbi: The Guidebook is useful for stakeholders at all levels––certainly for superintendents, administrators, technologists, and so forth. It is everyone’s job to manage student data privacy, and each person plays a different role to accomplish this goal. In particular, it is important that teachers get involved in these discussions, as they are often the ones making the decisions about the tools and technologies used in the classroom. We need to help educate teachers to better understand the implications of their choices and provide them with the knowledge base to do so. Showing them things like the Guidebook helps them understand how to make smart privacy decisions. Once they are armed with the relevant information, they are better equipped to dig deeper, to understand, for example, what data is being pulled when an application is being used or other relevant aspects of data management.
Additionally, I think that any information that parents can get on this topic is useful. I speak with many parents who don’t realize that their kids are using applications that collect data even at home. Sharing information with parents in this way also creates a stronger sense of trust within the institution and across the community, which is a big piece of the puzzle. So I think parents should be in the know about the processes and parameters that school districts use regarding student data privacy.
Other resources offering more of an introductory overview that even students can use, such as the “Ask Before You App” video tool, are also beneficial. Whereas the Guidebook offers in-depth examples of how to implement the laws to ensure compliance, “Ask Before You App” is a short video that offers basic tips on what to look out for before using edtech products. This video can also be used more broadly, for example in the context of technology onboarding training for teachers.
FPF: Are these resources specific to California or can they be used on a national basis?
Libbi: I believe that these resources can be used across all 50 states regardless of the local laws because they create awareness and share information. This is especially so for the “Ask Before You App” video. Although some of the guidebook may be specific to California, it is still beneficial for other states as it provides a starting point from which they can make necessary adaptations based on their own state laws. While these state laws differ, they certainly have a common thread. This is why we work with the California Student Privacy Alliance to help other states create their own state alliances so that they can comply with their state’s laws.
Finally, CETPA also offers other resources for districts and vendors, including a database of applications and vendors who have signed, with at least one school or district, the statewide agreement ensuring compliance with California’s student data privacy laws; and a model contract, the California Student Data Privacy Contract, that school districts and vendors can use. All these resources can be found at studentdataprivacy.net.
This interview was conducted by FPF student contractor Ahuva Goldstand on July 3, 2019. It has been edited and condensed for clarity.