Who’s Responsible for Student Data Privacy?

Type: Article
Topics: School Administrator Magazine, School Safety & Cybersecurity

February 01, 2024

It’s not the tech team alone, says the director of CoSN’s Trusted Learning Environment Seal program. Everyone in the district plays a part.

“It’s not a question of if. It’s a question of when.”

When it comes to the fears around student data breaches, those words are commonly heard from school district technology leaders and those who advise them. It’s meant as a caution to not be complacent and to ensure the school district is fully engaged in its student data privacy and security efforts.

All too often, though, well-meaning but under-resourced district teams are tasked with trying to prevent the unthinkable, sometimes within a school district climate that hasn’t fully come to grips with what is necessary to keep student data safe. On this note, it is particularly important to understand that technology alone cannot solve the problem. Instead, behavior change is needed. After all, multifactor authentication is a terrific security tool, but it doesn’t work if everyone isn’t willing to use it. Not using one password for everything is reasonable advice, but only if everyone follows it.

As with most behavior changes, those needed to truly build and grow a school district’s privacy and security program often are perceived as imposing some level of inconvenience. This perception often prevents a district from reaching its full potential when it comes to data privacy and security risk mitigation because we are, after all, creatures of convenience. Clearing the hurdles of our very human nature and implementing real organizational change requires that leaders drive it forward as an imperative for all.

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Linnette Attai

Project director

Consortium for School Networking’s Privacy Initiative and Trusted Learning Environment Program

A Seal to Build Trustworthiness in Student Data Privacy

The Consortium for School Networking’s Trusted Learning Environment Seal program is a student data privacy framework created by CoSN in partnership with AASA, the Association of School Business Officials and ASCD, with the support of school district leaders nationwide.

To earn the TLE Seal, school districts must demonstrate a maturity of privacy and security practices across 25 distinct requirements that address leadership, business practices, data security, professional development and classroom practices. The business practice requirements include assessing technologies and implementing data protection agreements with vendors.

Through the process of earning the TLE Seal, districts receive feedback and assessments from CoSN, which they use to improve data protection practices, providing stronger privacy for their students’ personal information while building greater transparency and trust with their parent and student communities. States also able to receive supports at scale for their districts.

The 26 districts nationwide that have earned the TLE Seal to date are committed to ongoing improvements in their privacy practices, which they must demonstrate every two years as part of a renewal process.

So far, more than 1.1 million students have benefitted from improved data privacy practices thanks to the work of TLE Seal recipients, which represent districts of all sizes from urban, rural and suburban communities. The leadership practice requirements of the TLE privacy framework are often the most critical to driving success of the overall application.

Find complete details at www.cosn.org/edtech-topics/trusted-learning-environment.

—    Linnette Attai