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Home > Privacy and Government > Government Threats to Privacy > Public Records > Public School Records

Public School Records

Though parents rarely recognize it, public schools pose a threat to the privacy of information about their children.

The wide variety of permission slips, doctors' notes, and records made by teachers, nurses, and counselors may not always be well managed. As more records move online, they may be more susceptible to security lapses that bring privacy-invading exposure.

Some schools are finding that they can supplement their budgets by disclosing student information to marketers of youth-oriented products. Sale of aggregate, non-identifiable student information seems to be a creative funding option available to school boards. It is important to note that advertising to children does not invade their privacy, though it may offend other sensibilities about how children should be treated in society.

School boards are in the best position to balance the needs of local schools with the concerns of students and parents. School boards should ensure that any disclosure of personally identifiable information about students occurs only with parental permission.

In public schools, unfortunately, the level of privacy accorded to student information is not subject to bargaining. Public schools do not need to protect privacy in order to retain students. In private schools, parents can demand privacy and careful administration of student records, removing their children and their tuition dollars from the schools that do not satisfy them.


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[updated 06/04/04]

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