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Data Privacy Concerns Are Worse Than Ever, Say District Leaders

Data Privacy Concerns Are Worse Than Ever, Say District Leaders. The New Center Wants to Aid. Twenty years ago, educators who took on the position of superintendent probably didn't give student data privacy much thought. However, it's now an essential component of the job, just like figuring out state standards or managing school budgets.

Now let's introduce the Public Interest Privacy Center, a brand-new nonprofit founded in late 2016. It will initially be located at AASA, the organization that represents school districts across the nation.

Amelia Vance, the center's three-person team's leader and self-described "privacy geek," has been one for about ten years. She most recently served as the nonprofit Future of Privacy Forum's vice president for youth and education privacy.

The new facility has a very specific need to fill: Technology has taken center stage in education over the past ten years, impacting everything from how math is taught and behavior is handled to how homework is gathered and teachers are compensated.

Now that so much data is being collected, Vance and her team can directly assist superintendents and other district leaders in responding to the plethora of privacy concerns and questions raised by these agreements, which are frequently complex and difficult to understand.

Questions from parents about data privacy

Parents are now telling district leaders things like: "I looked over my child's shoulder and they were using 10 different apps," Vance noted. Why do they have ten apps open? How are [their data] safeguarded?

Or, she added, parents might query things like: "My kids filled out a survey about their emotional health; where is that information going? How will it be put to use? Are we ensuring that data is actually being used to assist children rather than to categorize them?

She will assist district administrators in educating parents and teachers about the specifics of privacy and technology as part of her organization's work. Additionally, it will provide district administrators with resources for reviewing new technologies. The best solutions that local governments across the nation have found for their data privacy problems will also be shared.

The group will also act as a resource for school district administrators and their state lobbyists in order to help them comprehend how potential state-level privacy legislation might affect the operations of schools. Given that Congress seems to be becoming more interested in this matter, one of Vance's responsibilities will be to provide similar analysis to AASA's federal relations team.

We began to notice this "massive growth" in child privacy protections with the expansion of online learning, which was partly prompted by the pandemic, and the continued use of more technology in teaching and learning, according to Vance.

She wants to ensure that district administrators and their supporters have the knowledge they require to participate in the discussions about the nature of these protections. "Kids spend the majority of their waking hours in schools, but when it came to putting these child privacy protections together, nobody was actually talking to schools."

More than $500,000 in grants, including one from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, have already been given to the nonprofit center. (The foundation provides ongoing support for Education Week. The media outlet retains complete editorial control over all of its content.)