Schools house a lot of student information, and it is the duty of teachers, administrators and other staff member to ensure that data is safe. To provide this security, there are some steps you can take. Here are a few ways to help educators at your school promote data and information safety that aligns with the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act:
Instill data policies
Every school must have rules in place to ensure the safety of student information. This starts with the administration. Create policies regarding everything from student attendance, grades, health and behavioral records. Your school should have protocol for how to store and transfer this data, such as through an online management system. Instill rules about who can access this information and what reasons are acceptable. For example, if a teacher feels like a student's hyperactivity and inattentiveness in class may warrant some discussion about seeing a doctor about ADHD, does the educator have the right to look at the child's in-school health records? Meet with your staff every year for an overview of these policies. Talk through situations like the one above so everyone understands who can access what information and why. Also go over the rules yourself to see if any need adjustment due to incidents or simply to account for newer technology.
Seek outside IT help
Few schools employ full-time IT staff. While you may have a computer teacher, that does not mean this individual is well-versed in information transfer and security. If you are unsure about the safety of your data storage and transferring system, look for assistance outside your school.
"Few schools employ full-time IT staff."
This may mean working with a well-respected company that provides educational information resources, or even hiring a freelance IT person to address issue with your system on an as-needed basis. Spending some money here and there to deal with security issues through an IT professional is well worth it as this choice may prevent major data breaches in the future.
Teaching students good digital citizenship
Students should understand what it means to give away their information. While at school, they are likely using computers and tablets and may share data online. Teachers are in a unique position to help students be safe digital citizens. Kids should know, for example, not to provide personal information to strangers via chat rooms, social media or email. Any time a teacher requires his or her class to get an account on a website for educational purposes, the educator should alert parents ahead of time. This way the parents are aware of their kids' online presence, and can choose whether their children participate. Your school will likely also have online policies that prevent Internet users from accessing certain websites. These firewalls are crucial to ensuring students have a safe experience online while at school.
Don't forget photos
Information isn't limited to words. Photographs of students can also pose a security and personal safety issue. Let's say the newspaper comes to report on a fun event at your school. If the photographer wants to take shots of students who are under 18, you'll need to first gain parent permission. The paper will likely provide forms that parents or guardians can sign to give consent to the publication to use their children's images. If you want to feature a shot of students at a science fair or working away at a community service project in the school newsletter, you'll first need parental permission. Many schools send out a form at the beginning of the school year that, when signed, allows the school to use photos of students for school purposes. Also consider these rules when posting photos to social media under school accounts. After all, many parents follow school profiles and you don't want to share a shot of a child whose parents have not given consent.
Many schools or individual classrooms have their own blogs or websites. Teachers use these platforms as a place to keep parents and families updated on fun school happenings. Educators may share information on upcoming events, celebrate high test scores or even post photos of in-class activities. Should these blogs be public or private? That is a question many schools grapple with. It's a good idea to get parents in on the conversation. They have the right to ask the teacher or other school blog creator to make the page private. This way, only people with a special link, account or other log in information can view the site. Ask your teaching staff to run ideas about blogs like this by you before setting them up. That way you can ensure this form of public posting doesn't clash with any school data policies.
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