Cybersecurity Leadership

Process Check: Safeguarding Student Privacy

student privacy
Written by Miguel Guhlin

Before implementing any new system, whether technology-based or not, it’s important for schools to determine how to safeguard student privacy.

“What approaches do you have in place to safeguard student data and privacy?” From student assessment data to personally identifiable information to counting how many times students visit the restroom, administrators are working to put tracking systems in place. These systems (such as Google Sheets/Form where students submit data about themselves without parental knowledge) make it easier for schools to record and track information on students, but they may also put sensitive data at risk. What is your organization’s process for safeguarding student privacy?

What’s Your District’s Process?

“There’s no right or wrong answer,” says Bill Fitzgerald of Common Sense Media, “except to not have a process to evaluate how data will be maintained over time.” Whatever the original positive intent, each campus and/or district should evaluate how it intends to use and share collected student data BEFORE any program to gather that data is implemented. The process may include something as simple as the following:

  1. Prepare the program for a pilot implementation.
  2. Invite stakeholders, including students, parents, and educators, to meet and discuss the proposed program. Some points to ponder:
  • What are the positive and negative aspects of the program?
  • Who will access the digital data and for what purpose?
  1. What does the Committee think about objections by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and other organizations that make these assertions (Source)?
  • While there is an expectation of supervision and guidance in schools, monitoring the detailed behaviors of individuals can be demeaning.
  • Tracking and monitoring young people in their development may condition them to accept constant monitoring and tracking of their whereabouts and behaviors.  (Source: Chip Free Schools as cited by Slate)


Before you purchase and implement a system that tracks students’ movements or data, give serious thought to the process steps you may have overlooked. Doing so can save time and trouble later, resulting in a safer environment.


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About the author

Miguel Guhlin

Director of Professional Development at TCEA
A former director of technology, Miguel brings a unique perspective to TCEA’s professional development team. He specializes in Microsoft’s educational products and has extensive instructional technology experience. A prolific writer, Miguel blogs at Around the Corner and for TCEA’s TechNotes Blog. Miguel earned both his Master’s degree in Bicultural/Bilingual Studies with an ESL Concentration and his B.A. at University of Texas, San Antonio.

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