As explained in the Wait, What? post entitled, ALERT – Legislation seeking to undo student privacy protections now before CT Legislature’s Education Committee, legislation has been introduced that would undermine Connecticut’s new student privacy law.
In legislative testimony this week, the Connecticut Alliance for Privacy in Education explained why the change is unnecessary and inappropriate.
Parents should take a moment to read this important information.
HB 7207 would delay student data privacy protections enacted last year until July 1, 2018. HB 7207 would undermine protections that students, from prek through grade 12 currently have as a result of the committee’s hard work last year when it enacted PA 16-189 with bi-partisan support.
The proposed bill would keep parents in the dark regarding the release of their children’s records. It would keep parents in the dark regarding contractors who have access to their children’s records. It would keep parents in the dark even in the event of breach of student data. The proposed bill undermines several sections to the law that was passed overwhelmingly by legislators and supported by parents, educators and other critical voices representing children. It undermines security requirements for contractors and operators of websites and apps and delays the implementation of a breach policy. It leaves unaddressed the fact that a task force created last year to address ongoing issues was never convened. It would leave children in Connecticut less protected than those in other states where 73 laws on student data privacy have been enacted.
We can see no reason that any part of this law, let along the entire law, should be delayed. At a time when security and transparency provisions have already been long overdue in this state, HB 7207 would delay protections for more than 2 years from the time this committee recommended a bill to the General Assembly. Connecticut would be going backwards.
In addition, PA 16-189 established a task force to address unmet and ongoing student privacy issues. It was never convened. The task force would have addressed issues regarding enforcement and penalties for third party violators, training in data security and handling, an inventory of approved resources, the development of a tool kit for use by school districts, a means by which parents could reasonably request the deletion of student information that is held by third parties, and to provide model practices in the state. The task force was good policy passed as a good faith promise to parents and other stakeholders that more would be done to protect students.
Some districts have done their due diligence and are doing the right thing by their students and the law. However, other districts are finding compliance more challenging and could benefit from some assistance. This was not an unforeseen issue, and one reason for the creation of a task force was for it to provide guidance and a toolkit for implementation.
Thankfully, the Connecticut Commission on Educational Technology (CCET), in collaboration with The Department of Administrative Services, has undertaken the task of assisting districts (You can see what they have done here: Operationalizing Public Act 189 http://www.ct.gov/ctedtech/cwp/view.asp?a=1182&q=253412). Their work is commendable and likely to result in most districts being in compliance in the near future – unless this bill is enacted, giving districts and opponents justification to halt progress.
It is important to note that according to CCET, an unanticipated benefit of this law is that an accounting of purchases and agreements has helped districts to identify redundancies and inefficiencies, effectively streamlining purchases and processes. We commend CCET on its work and commitment to the privacy of students.
Still, a permanent Advisory Council that enables all stakeholders to collaborate on behalf of students is necessary and should be added into the law. As many of you know, we often do our best work when all voices are represented and working together to address shared challenges and develop collaborative solutions.
It should also be noted that PA 16-189 did not stop the collection of student data or its appropriate use for instructional purposes and to improve student learning. It simply provided greater notice and transparency for parents and delineated contract provisions and technical security safeguards, while seeking to address misuse and instances of breach.
The jury is no longer out. There has been a wealth of information and resources to help us understand why it is necessary for us to do this and how to do it right. We have learned from state and federal guidance documents, two legislative sessions worth of public hearings and forums, television and radio reports, and too many news articles with headlines shouting “breach”. We urge that you stand behind this policy and stand with the parents and students of your districts by saying “No Delay
Now is the time to make sure legislators understand that they should reject the effort to undermine Connecticut’s new student privacy law.