Important Legal News and Advice for School Administrators and Officials
March 5, 2015
Online Educational Services and Student Privacy
When utilizing online educational services, school staff must be aware of legal requirements and be careful to protect student privacy, confidentiality and security by avoiding:
- Unauthorized disclosure of personally identifiable student information
- Students providing personal information in order to access online education services
- Students under age 13 providing personal information to online services directed to collect information from children in violation of federal and state laws.
School staff should also be aware that when using online educational services, clicking “I Agree” to a “Terms of Service” (TOS) agreement for the online service or mobile application is acceptance of all terms. These terms will govern how student information (provided by school staff and students) will be used by the provider, and with whom the information will be shared. TOS agreements may not offer any protections for student privacy or limits on the use of information. Further information is available at ptac.ed.gov or contact the OGC with your questions about online educational services and TOS agreements.
Why the alert?
Many online educational services require that school staff provide student personally identifiable information (PII) to create student accounts for use of services. Personally identifiable student information is protected by FERPA. School staff cannot legally disclose without parent consent unless disclosure falls under one of several exceptions. Without parent consent or restrictions regarding the maintenance, use or further disclosure of the information, a service provider can use the information for whatever
purposes they chose. Further, having agreements with online educational service providers which adequately protect the confidentiality and privacy of student information is critical. TOS agreement terms must be reviewed prior to entering into the agreement in light of our legal obligations to comply with applicable privacy laws.
What are online educational services?
Online educational services are computer software, mobile applications and web-based tools provided by a third party or via internet offered for educational purposes.
What are TOS agreements?
Online service providers typically use “Terms of Service” (TOS) agreements to require users to accept and agree to all of the terms of an agreement by clicking “I Agree” in order to access services.
What are our legal obligations under FERPA, PPRA & COPPA?
The District has a legal obligation to protect student privacy in accordance with applicable laws. FERPA prohibits school maintained student PII (e.g. names, birthdate, addresses, id numbers, etc.) from disclosure without written parent consent. The Protection of Pupil Rights Amendment (PPRA) applies when personal information is collected from the student. It provides protections against the use of PII for marketing to students and allows parents to opt-out of activities when student information is being collected. Finally, the Children’s Online Privacy and Protection Act (COPPA) protects children by requiring commercial websites and online services knowingly collecting personal information from children under age 13 to obtain verifiable parent consent, among other requirements, prior to collecting student personal information, except under limited circumstances.
For legal advice contact:
The Office of the General Counsel
3011 W. Grand Blvd., Ste. 1002
Important Legal Updates for the Office of the General Counsel
Posted February 7, 2013
As you plan for your upcoming graduation ceremonies, please be reminded that federal law and the US Constitution (1st Amendment) prohibit public schools from conducting graduation ceremonies at religious facilities. If you have any questions about the use of a facility, please contact the Office of General Counsel at (313) 873-4528.
As we approach the prom season, please be reminded that it is unconstitutional and contrary to DPS policy to ban same sex couples from attending the prom. You cannot attempt to circumvent the law or the District’s policy by requiring same sex couples submit advance requests or permissions slips unless such requirements are applied to all students. If you have questions about the District’s sexual harassment policies, please contact the Office of General Counsel at (313) 873-4528.