Pa. Review Finds Schools Lacking in Student Privacy Protection

A review of Pennsylvania school districts highlights the challenges they face protecting student information.

Pennsylvania school districts are struggling to maintain student privacy as technology’s role in classrooms continues to grow.

Only 11 of 31 school districts in the state had documents showing the software and applications that teachers assigned students didn’t violate student privacy laws, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, which conducted the review.

Of the 31 districts, only eight had documents proving they trained teachers in student privacy procedures and only six could prove teachers frequently asked for approval to use education technology tools.

Still, many districts were making efforts to protect student data and be transparent. Some school systems, like the Butler Area School District, force teachers to let the IT department vet each app before it’s used. Others send letters to parents explaining their approach to student privacy.

One of the biggest challenges facing schools is budgets. Pittsburgh Public Schools, one of the state’s largest districts, has 1,305 applications on its computers but lacks the resources to go through each app’s privacy policy.

Another problem is the lack of available information on application privacy policies. District officials say there’s no master list of privacy policies for each app online but some are working to create that. The review found some apps had no plan for disposing of student data in the event of a change in company ownership or bankruptcy, and some apps had no privacy policy at all.

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