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.