Student Privacy Bill Delayed

Published March 23, 2015

Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO) and Rep. Luke Messer (R-IN) did not release a student privacy bill March 23 as expected. Polis and Messer held off on releasing the Student Digital Privacy and Parental Rights Act, which intends to prevent vendors and third parties from using student information, according to Messer’s staff. The delay followed complaints from parents and activists who say they fear the measure may not go far enough to protect students.

“While we welcome federal legislation to strengthen student privacy protections, we are concerned that this effort may be incomplete, inadequate, or co-opted by special interests,” said Co-chairs of the Parent Coalition for Student Privacy Leonie Haimson and Rachael Stickland in an open letter to Polis and Messer.

The letter states, “One of our crucial concerns is the current lack of a clear affirmative obligation on the part of schools and districts to notify parents about what student data is being collected, what data is being shared with which third parties, and under what conditions. Another crucial concern is the lack of a clear legal obligation on the part of schools and districts to notify parents about which vendors the schools have authorized to collect information directly from children in class, as schools – not vendors – are the sole contact point for most parents.”

Changes to the bill shouldn’t take long, according to Liz Hall, Messer’s communications director.

“We are still working through the technical nuances of the bill, but we still hope to introduce at some point this week,” Hall told School Reform News.   

Microsoft endorses the bill, which Messer and Polis worked on with White House staff.

Heather Kays ([email protected]) is a research fellow with The Heartland Institute and is managing editor of School Reform News.

Image by BarbaraLN.