Information Policy Fact Sheet
K-12 STUDENT RECORDS: PRIVACY AT RISK
NOTE: THIS DOCUMENT HAS NOT BEEN UPDATED FOR YEARS. WE LEAVE IT HERE FOR ITS HISTORICAL VALUE.
The U.S. education system is rapidly building a nationwide network of electronic student records. This computer network will make possible the exchange of information among various agencies and employers, and the continuous tracking of individuals through the social service, education and criminal justice systems, into higher education, the military and the workplace.
WHAT IS THE ISSUE?
There is no adequate guarantee that the collection and sharing of personal information will be done only with the knowledge and consent of students or their parents.
CHANGES ARE COMING TO STUDENT RECORDS
National proposals being implemented today include:
At the heart of these changes is a national electronic student records network, coordinated by the federal government and adopted by states with federal assistance.
Publication 93-03 of the National Education Goals Panel, a federally- appointed group recently empowered by the Goals 2000 legislation to oversee education restructuring nationally, recommends as "essential" that school districts and/or states collect expanded information on individual students, including:
It also notes other "data elements useful for research and school management purposes":
Many of these information categories also were included in the public
draft, "Student Data Handbook for Elementary and Secondary Education,"
developed by the Council of Chief State School Officers to standardize
student record terminology across the nation. State and local agencies
theoretically design their own information systems, but the handbook
encourages them to collect information for policymakers at all levels.
WHO CAN ACCESS THIS COMPREHENSIVE INFORMATION?
Officers, employees and agents of local, state and federal educational agencies and private education researchers may be given access to individual student records without student or parent consent, according to the federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (20 USC 1232g) and related federal regulations (34 CFR 99.3). Washington state law echoes this federal law.
WHAT IS COMING NEXT?
Recent legislation passed in Washington state (SB 6428-'92, HB 1209-'93, HB 2319-'94) directly links each public school district with a self governing group of social service and community agencies that will provide services for families.
This type of program is described in detail in the book, Together We Can, published jointly by the U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The book speaks of overcoming "the confidentiality barrier," and suggests creating centralized data banks that gather information about individuals from various government agencies or in other ways ensuring agencies, "ready access to each other's records." The book calls for a federal role in coordinating policies, regulations and data collection. A group in St. Louis, MO, called Wallbridge Caring Communities, is cited as a model for seeking agreements to allow computer linkups with schools and the social service and criminal justice systems to track school progress, referrals and criminal activity.
WHAT HAPPENED TO ONE COMMUNITY
In Kennewick, WA, over 4,000 kindergarten through fourth graders were rated by their teachers on how often they lie, cheat, sneak, steal, exhibit a negative attitude, act aggressively, and whether they are rejected by their peers. The scores, with names attached, were sent to a private psychiatric center under contract to screen for "at-risk" students who might benefit from its programs. All of this was done without the knowledge and consent of the children or their parents.
CPSR Seattle believes that schools and other agencies should minimize the collection, distribution and retention of personally identifiable data. Students and/or their parents should decide who has access to personal information.
Representatives of CPSR Seattle have gone to Olympia to:
"Student Data Handbook for Elementary and Secondary Education." Council of Chief State School Officers, Washington, D.C. draft 9-11-92.
Together We Can. Atelia Melaville, et al. U.S. Government Printing
Office. 4-93. (PIP 93-1103).
You may redistribute this fact sheet, as long as it is not modified.
Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility - Seattle Chapter,
tagged by gene chung-ngai moy, CPSR-LA
12:22 AM PST on 11/11/96
Created before October 2004