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Protecting Students’ Data

by on September 18, 2014

There are many types of predators around schools. Most are student-centric and can come in human form, some also come in cyber form. Sometimes the intent is not malicious, but as trusted holders of student data, all schools have a responsibility on how that information is captured, stored and shared. This problem is a serious matter and adequate protective measures must be taken to protect student data and information specific to the children trusted to your care.

How student data is collected and stored presents a serious risk to all schools. Medical information, grades, even a student’s online viewing habits can be captured by predators whether or not any personal information is provided. This is a growing concern for any institution that gathers information and appropriate online controls need to be in place to protect your data.

School policy specific to online usage by students, faculty and administrators is only the beginning. Listed below are some thoughts to consider in thinking about protecting your students and one of your most valuable assets – student data.

  • Is encryption of your school’s data on all fronts a standard practice and if so, is the encryption methodology reviewed on a regular basis to ensure it is most effective?
  • If you use a vendor to capture and store your data, have you reviewed their data security measures? If they use cloud technology, what controls are in place to ensure the data is protected?
  • How does your institution capture and store student medical information? Is any of this data ever printed and distributed to coaches or other supervisors when travelling with students? What happens to that information after the event or trip?
  • Social media sites are fertile ground for gathering personal data: what is your institution’s policy regarding this use at school?
  • Do students use their cell phones as hotspots? This type of usage can lead to a data breach on your network and potentially circumvent controls in place to protect personal data and online usage.

Appropriate steps should be taken to ensure personal information is adequately protected.

The first step is to identify your usage and data capture methods. Next, examine the controls in place to protect your data. Additionally, ensure there is appropriate vetting of all vendors who may store your school’s data. Knowledge and awareness are key factors to help keep our students safe and help protect personal information.

This topic has been receiving a lot of attention in the independent school world lately, below are some links for more information and perspectives to consider:

Yahoo – What Are Schools Doing with your Kids Data

EdSurge – Scrutinizing Data Privacy Policies of Edmodo, Khan and Pearson

Magnus Health – School security: Protecting student information in a digital age

EdSurge – OPINION: Reframing the Data Debate


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