9 Steps to Keep Student Data Safe
Technology makes accessing student data rather easy. However, all student data needs to be maintained in a confidential manner to protect students’ rights, security, and dignity. At the same time, federal and state laws and guidelines may have certain rules regarding the type of safety precautions that must be taken regarding this data, but they might not specify specific tasks. Unfortunately, not all school districts may provide a higher level of interpretation of those guidelines and laws. Therefore, there some steps need to be considered when protecting student data.
- Establish Transparency with Laws and Guidelines
When federal and state laws do not provide a clear picture of how data needs to be protected, school districts’ administration needs to provide clarity before a breach of information is made.
- Understand the Risks – Paper
When it comes to being secure with student data information, there are many risks at hand. If paper trails are being created, then those papers need to be locked away from prying eyes, so having a method to protect against this factor is essential. File drawers and file folder systems need to be used effectively to make sure paperwork is protected in a confidential manner.
- Understand the Risks – Electronic
Any computers teachers use for accessing student information should be lockable with a password. Programs that allow access to this information should be encrypted for access in some way, so two levels of authentication for entry would be a good idea. These applications and programs should also not be left open on any computer screen to avoid tempting prying eyes.
- Establish Transparency with Students, Parents, and Guardians
Information needs to be available to parents to some point, so they need to understand what their children and other guardians can have access to and why. School websites can house this data just as much as a student’s handbook can, too. Either way, transparency of what happens to this data need to be blatantly available.
- Define Who Can and Cannot Have Access
Third-party vendors providing systems to convey student data might want access to certain aspects of an electronic database for student information. However, a decision needs to be made about how much access they need to have to perform their tasks. Also, information needs to be delegated their individual entitlements based solely on what information they need to perform their jobs and nothing more.
- Technical Support Access
Third-party vendors need to equally be trained in ethics and efficacy for handling student data. This situation is mostly true with their IT departments for when concerns arise. Therefore, school districts need to refer to transparency when it comes to defining what they can and cannot have access to.
- Train Staff
There is much responsibility that comes with accessing student data. A school district cannot assume that staff members automatically understand certain aspects of handling this information. Staff members need to know how to access information responsibly, know how to use a notification system for breaches, and should understand what to do in case of a breach.
- Have Protocol for Notification Purposes
There should be some sort of notification process in place if a breach happens. People need to know who to report breaches to if they happen. Then, all parties involved with the data need to be made aware of the situation, too. A press release would be a good idea to put parents and the community on a protective, proactive front that works in-line with attempts to fix the problem.
- Have a Plan for Data Breeches
The best thing to do with a security breach is to plan ahead as much as possible so one does not happen. A breach can be rather chaotic, especially when the cause is not known. However, work must be done as fast as possible to contain the breach.
Understanding the importance of protecting student data is essential to surviving in education. There are so many levels of ethics and efficacy that need to be considered, so being overly prepared for any situation or breach is the best method for protecting against exposing this data to prying eyes.