GOP senator unveils new student data privacy bill

GOP senator unveils new student data privacy bill
© Greg Nash

Bills meant to protect student data are starting to pile up.

Sen. David VitterDavid Bruce VitterBottom Line Bottom Line Top 5 races to watch in 2019 MORE (R-La.) on Thursday introduced his own bill, the Student Privacy Protection Act, meant to give parents control over how their child’s data is released and used.

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“Parents are right to feel betrayed when schools collect and release information about their kids,” said Vitter in a statement. “This is real, sensitive information — and it doesn’t belong to some bureaucrat in Washington D.C.”

In recent years, it’s become commonplace for schools to look to third-party, cloud-based services to manage student records and improve classroom education.

But studies show school districts are often not forthcoming about which outside services have access to student data. A 2013 Fordham University study found only a quarter of school districts inform parents of the cloud services being used.

The trend has raised fears on Capitol Hill that children’s sensitive data could be exposed to hackers or used to target ads to minors.

“We need to make sure that parents and students have complete control over their own information,” Vitter said.

Vitter’s bill would restrict who has access to student data and what information is allowed to be released. Educational agencies would also have to obtain consent before giving out student records.

The measure would update the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), increasingly a popular goal on the Hill.

Sens. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Ed Markey (D-Mass.) yesterday released their own FERPA update bill, and Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) is expected to do so as well. The House also has a White House-supported bill from Reps. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) and Luke Messer (R-Ind.) with similar aims.