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Legislators Urged to Strengthen Student Data Privacy Protections

Jenn Jacobsen, director of Connecticut Alliance for Privacy in Education (CAPE).

Jenn Jacobsen, director of the Connecticut Alliance for Privacy in Education (CAPE).

“Connecticut is among a small minority of states that have yet to enact legislation pertaining to the protection and use of student data, leaving our children and families inadequately protected,” Jenn Jacobsen, director of the Connecticut Alliance for Privacy in Education (CAPE), told legislators this week.

Jacobsen and other CAPE members testified at a public hearing before the legislature’s Education Committee on HB 5469 An Act Concerning Student Data Privacy.

CEA Research and Policy Development Specialist Ray Rossomando thanked legislators for raising a bill to address the important issue of student data privacy but said that CEA does not support the bill in its current form. Citing a recent case where a Connecticut school district shared sensitive special education data with an outside contractor, Rossomando urged lawmakers to strengthen HB 5469 to prevent similar data releases in the future.

“Last year, a district agreed to provide the Connecticut Council for Education Reform, an outside organization, with information from students’ records and classroom schedules, unbeknownst to students or parents,” said David McGuire, legislative and policy director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut. “Incidents like this demonstrate the need for reform in this area.”

CEA Research and Policy Development Specialist Ray Rossomando.

CEA Research and Policy Development Specialist Ray Rossomando.

“There are more comprehensive and even simple, common-sense provisions that could be included that could make the work of this committee among the best in the nation,” Rossomando said.

Marne Usher of the Connecticut PTA said that her organization is concerned that the legislation covers third party contractors only. “We would like to see legislation that ensures consistent policies for all student data regardless of who is collecting it. Parents have the right to know about all the data that is collected in their child’s record,” she said.

“We have no interest in preventing student data from being used by schools and teachers to inform instructional practices, but when data is sent to a third party, that’s a concern,” Rossomando said. “The key is balancing the legitimate collection of students’ personally identifiable information for use in classrooms with the thirsty demand for data by entities beyond the schoolhouse doors.”

“Policymakers, educators, parents, and communities must ensure that all individuals and entities who have access to student data take steps to protect the lives behind the data,” Jacobsen said. “Together we must ensure that appropriate protections, safeguards, rules, and regulations are established to guarantee data security and privacy for students and their families.”

Click on the links below to read testimony by CAPE members.

Jenn Jacobsen, CAPE

Ray Rossomando, CEA

Marne Usher, CT PTA

David McGuire, ACLU-CT

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