Survey: Students' Personal Data Are At Risk

According to the first survey of how schools gather and use student data, there are no restrictions limiting private vendors use of that information, and most parents have no clue that schools let private companies store personal information about their children.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

Staying with the topic of computers and schools, NPR's Claudio Sanchez reports on a recent survey that found parents may have reason to worry about how schools are protecting student's personal data.

CLAUDIO SANCHEZ, BYLINE: The survey was conducted by Common Sense Media, which focuses on kids and media issues. Its key finding: Six in 10 parents don't know that schools let private companies store personal data about their children, their grades, their disciplinary behavior, their health records, even what they eat in the cafeteria.

JIM STEYER: There's no question that today student data is at risk.

SANCHEZ: Jim Steyer is head of Common Sense Media. He says the unrestricted access that private venders have to kids' personal information should alarm everyone, as more and more teachers rely on laptops, iPads and the Internet.

STEYER: Every time a student uses and app or a website, they create traceable data. And we know from the research that the current policies are woefully inadequate around student privacy in most of the school districts in this country.

FRANCISCO NEGRON: I think the problem with saying that something is woefully inadequate is that it suggests that there's been deliberate indifference to this.

SANCHEZ: Far from it, says Francisco Negron, top attorney for the National School Boards Association. Most school districts, he says, have policies in place to protect student data.

NEGRON: We're urging school districts to spell that out in contracts, make sure that you're not using it for marketing purposes, that you're not using it for personally identifiable reasons.

SANCHEZ: But based on his survey, Steyer says, that doesn't always happen. He says it's time for schools to overhaul their student privacy policies and make sure parents know exactly how their child's personal information is used. Claudio Sanchez, NPR News.

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