Distance learning is new to educators and students. Things in K-12 are done differently now and that can lead to unintentional violations of the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act. Be sure you are aware of FERPA in order to avoid a violation.
- Avoid revealing the identity and education records of students beyond those that have a legitimate need to know such as parents, counselors and certain other authorized employees.
- Want to throw away old student records? Don’t just put them in trash cans—shred them first.
- Carefully screening on-line vendors to make sure they are FERPA compliant. Among the questions teachers should ask are how the vendor gives parents and students access to records, and how it prevents unauthorized people from accessing those records.
- Beware of online vendors of free apps and websites that offer free services. Those services might appear free on the surface, but the vendors could be “getting paid in education records,” or mining data to sell to third-parties.
- DOE has a duty to be certain that electronic data generated by online teaching and learning belongs to the school, not to the vendor, and that the vendor’s responsibility is to process it for the benefit of the school and its students, and not for the vendor’s own benefit. Teachers can be safe by limiting on-line activity to district approved websites, apps and software.
Parents own the FERPA rights of their child until the child turns 18. Do not deny parents and students access to their education records. Email is considered an acceptable and safe way of sharing sensitive information. When in doubt, get written permission from an authorized parent.