Judge’s ruling in student privacy case will impact school data sharing and Common Core implementation
By Ben Velderman
WASHINGTON, D.C. – A month after appearing in a federal district court, privacy advocates are still awaiting a judge’s ruling as to whether or not the U.S. Department of Education overstepped its bounds in late 2011 by unilaterally altering the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), leaving parents and students with fewer privacy protections.
On July 24, attorneys for the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) argued before Judge Amy Berman Jackson that Education Department officials kicked the legs out from underneath the 1974 privacy law when they decided schools can release student information for non-academic purposes.
EPIC attorneys also argued that federal officials went too far when they decided schools can release student records to non-governmental organizations without first getting parental consent, reports the Washington Post.
Department of Education officials want schools to have the power to collect and share more student data to assist with implementation of new national Common Core learning standards.
In their lawsuit, EPIC attorneys say the federal bureaucrats accomplished these monumental changes by re-defining key terms in the FERPA law, namely “authorized representative,” “education program,” and “directory information.”
They contend the new, expansive definitions will ultimately lead to “troves of sensitive, nonacademic” student data getting passed around to various “third parties,” including for-profit educational technology companies that could use the information to create learning software.
U.S. Department of Education officials say their FERPA changes are allowed under the language contained in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 – commonly known as the “stimulus” bill – and the America COMPETES Act of 2007.
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