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Forum Guide to Protecting the Privacy of Student Information: State and Local Education Agencies

Section 3: Commonly Asked Questions

Q. How do I decide what information to collect about a student?

A. Check state and local laws and regulations as well as school board policies for the types of information required to collect. Other than these requirements, agency or school staff should carefully consider the needs for the information against the costs and burden of collecting it. See sections 3A and 3B.

Q. Must I have permission from the parents to give an achievement test to a student?

A. Permission from parents is not usually needed for achievement testing unless state or local policies related to obtaining parental permission already exist or if the test contains questions from one of the eight areas listed in PPRA. In general, schools should inform parents of the purposes and uses of testing and whether it is mandatory. See section 3B; also see discussion of the Protection of Pupil Rights Amendment (PPRA) in section 2C.

Q. How is information collected from students on the Internet protected?

A. In April 2000, the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act of 1998 was passed. This law governs the online collection of personal information from children under age 13. The rule requires operators of web sites or online services directed to children or which children might use to post prominent links on their web sites to a notice of privacy. This notice: 1) explains how the web site collects, uses, and/or discloses personal information from children; 2) notifies parents that they wish to collect information from their children and obtain parental consent prior to collecting, using, and/or disclosing such information; 3) assures parents that no more personal information is collected than is needed for the children’s participation in online activities; 4) allows parents the opportunity to review or have their children’s information deleted from the operator’s databases; and 5) establishes procedures to protect the confidentiality, security, and integrity of personal information they collect from the children.

Q. How responsible am I for the accuracy of the student data I receive?

A. In general, data collectors are more ethically than legally responsible. You can promote the accuracy and integrity of the data in several ways. See section 3D.

Q. When can I destroy student records? When not?

A. Agencies or schools may establish their own policies, based on federal and state legal requirements, to determine the length of time records or portions of records are kept. See section 3E. However, schools may not destroy a record if there is a pending request to review it. See section 5.

Q. Can I use social security numbers to identify education records?

A. Yes, you may use social security numbers if your state law does not prohibit it. However, you may not require students to provide them. It is important for you to inform students or parents if agencies or schools intend to use these numbers. See section 3D.