Articles in the School Law category

A. Dean Pickett and David B. Rubin receive NSBA’s Council of School Attorneys 2014 award

COSA_awards

The National School Boards Association’s (NSBA) Council of School Attorneys (COSA) honored two school board attorneys who have provided exemplary service to school board clients and the school law community at the 2014 Annual School Law Seminar. Both men are receiving the award in recognition of their long and outstanding service to public schools, the profession, and the mission of COSA to “improve the practice of school law by providing leadership in legal advocacy for public schools.”

A. Dean Pickett, Tempe Tri District Legal Counsel, Tempe, Az., and David B. Rubin, David B. Rubin, P.C., Metuchen, N.J., are the recipients of the 2014 Award for Distinguished Service.

“We are so proud to honor two pillars of the school law community. Both Dean and David provide exemplary service to school boards and students they serve, as well as the school law community as a whole” said Allison Schafer, COSA’s Chair.

Pickett has made countless contributions to the practice of school law at the state and national level. He is a founding member of the Arizona Council of School Attorneys and has been an active participant for over 30 years. He served on the COSA Board of Directors for eleven years and was chair from 2009-2010. He is the creator of the COSA School Law Boot Camp for attorneys new to the practice of school law and regularly presents at these sessions at COSA seminars.

Pickett noted, “We have seen the quality and clarity of school law practice grow dramatically in the past thirty years, in large part as a result of COSA’s – every member’s – commitment to this very special practice area, and understanding that when we do it right, we’re doing right for kids.”

Rubin is an active and energetic supporter of COSA and its mission. He served as chair from 1995-1996, currently chairs COSA’s Working Group on Cloud Computing and Student Privacy, and regularly presents on legal ethics at COSA seminars. He was selected as 2014 Lawyer of the Year by Best Lawyers in America for Ethics and Professional Responsibility Law (Newark Region) and is a recipient of the New Jersey Commission on Professionalism in Law’s Professional Lawyer of the Year Award. He has served as Chair of the New Jersey Bar Association Professional Responsibility and Unlawful Practice Committee, President of the New Jersey Association of School Attorneys, and lecturer in education law at Rutgers University Graduate School of Education.

Rubin said, “It’s a great honor to receive this award but, even more, I’m grateful for nearly 30 years of professional collaboration and comradery I’ve enjoyed with my COSA colleagues throughout the country.”

Schafer noted: “Dean and David are model school board advocates, legal experts and true counselors who give practical advice with a dose of wisdom to their clients and colleagues. They are both really nice guys to boot, and thoughtful mentors to new school attorneys.”

Formed in 1967, the NSBA Council of School Attorneys provides information and practical assistance to attorneys who represent public school districts. It offers legal education, specialized publications, and a forum for exchange of information, and it supports the legal advocacy efforts of the National School Boards Association. For more information on COSA, visit www.nsba.org/COSA.

Alexis Rice|April 4th, 2014|Categories: School Law|Tags: , , , , , , |

Obama administration lawyers open School Law Seminar

Two lawyers from the Obama administration answered questions from Council of School Attorneys (COSA) members at the opening general session Thursday of the 2014 School Law Seminar in New Orleans. The meeting is held in conjunction with NSBA’s Annual Conference.

Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Education Catherine Lhamon and Anurima Bhargava, chief of the educational opportunities section, Civil Rights Division, at the U.S. Department of Justice, took questions from school district lawyers on a wide range of topics, including reasons for OCR investigations and the recent guidance on students with disabilities and extracurricular activities.

Lhamon spoke briefly about the mission and purpose of OCR. “Education is a civil rights issue,” she said. “That is the work we are doing at the Department of Education. We hope we can work together to deliver that justice.”

COSA lawyers lined up to ask questions of the two women. One lawyer wanted to know what she should do about what she termed “frequent flyers” — employees who file constant complaints and grievances. “It’s burden for us to get the data,” she said. “Every one of those [complaints] have come back as unfounded. Is there anything we can do to bring to your attention that this is an every-month occurrence?”

OCR is required by law to investigate any compliant, said Lhamon, “but we are looking at ways to ease” the frequent flyer problem.

Bhargava noted that her office did not have the same legal obligation to investigate every complaint. “We know there are the frequent flyers,” she said. “We try to be mindful of that. We are looking for ways to coordinate so you are not answering multiple complaints.”

Another question was about the school board obligation to look into matters such as student disciplinary decisions, which boards traditionally leave to district staff.

“We haven’t put out guidance about what boards should do,” Lhamon answered. “We want our school staff, boards, parents, and teachers to be thinking about what to ask. Boards do defer to staff, but you can ask and look underneath. Boards can make the decision when and where to ask those questions.”

Bhargava encouraged board member to look at the OCR data. “The data helps identify where there are issues. Everyone is empowered to use the data and ask questions.”

The School Law Seminar runs through Saturday.

 

Kathleen Vail|April 4th, 2014|Categories: Conferences and Events, Council of School Attorneys, NSBA Annual Conference 2014, School Law|Tags: , , , , |

NSBA advises on student data privacy

The National School Boards Association’s (NSBA) Council of School Attorneys (COSA) participated in an expert panel session last month to discuss legal issues associated with transferring, storing, and protecting student data.

Held as part of the Consortium for School Networking’s Annual Conference, the student privacy panel included COSA Director Sonja Trainor; U.S. Department of Education (ED) Chief Privacy Officer Kathleen Styles; Assistant Director at the Federal Trade Commission Mark Eichorn; and was moderated by Alicia Solow-Niederman of Harvard University’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society.

Styles highlighted ED’s resources on the student data privacy, including a recent publication, Protecting Student Privacy While Using Online Educational Services. She recommended three key steps school districts should be taking to address student data privacy: (1) take a hard look at policies addressing student records and data; (2) train staff on your district’s student data privacy policies, and in privacy concerns generally; and (3) be transparent in your student data privacy policies and practices.

Noting that outdated student privacy laws have created holes, making it difficult to craft school policy, Trainor stressed the importance of anticipating trends in legislation and taking a comprehensive approach to student data privacy, while working with a school attorney to keep on top of changing laws.

NSBA will be releasing a resource guide in conjunction with the NSBA Annual Conference to be held April 5-7 in New Orleans, which will help school boards identify the crucial issues associated with student privacy when the school district uses online educational services.  COSA  will also release a detailed resource for school attorneys, which will include suggested contract terms.

In addition to recommending a comprehensive approach to student data privacy protection, the guide will recommend that school boards keep their communities informed and involved in the steps they are taking to guard against loss of student data privacy. Trainor will present a school law session at the conference entitled “Cloud Computing and Student Privacy – What School Boards Need to Know” on Sunday, April 6 at 1:30-2:45 pm in rooms 346-347.

 

Staff|April 2nd, 2014|Categories: Educational Technology, NSBA Publications, School Boards, School Law|Tags: , , , |

NSBA’s COSA Seminar examines civil rights, school choice issues

Civil rights enforcement, vouchers, employment, bullying, and disability law are the hot topics this week at the National School Boards Associations’ (NSBA) Council of School Attorneys’ (COSA) annual School Law Seminar in New Orleans taking place April 3-5. The hashtag for the seminar is #COSANola.

In the opening discussion, Catherine Lhamon, Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights for the U.S. Department of Education, will cover the scope of civil rights issues in our nation’s schools and the work that Office of Civil Rights (OCR) is doing to ensure equal access to high-quality education for all students. Lhamon will cover the latest OCR research and the charge to protect our nation’s students against discrimination on the basis of race, sex, disability, and age in K-12 and postsecondary educational institutions nationally. Lhamon will be joined by Anurima Bhargava, Chief, Educational Opportunities Division, Civil Rights Division, U.S. Department of Justice, who will take questions on the recent guidance issued by both departments on Nondiscriminatory Administration of School Discipline.

“The annual School Law Seminar gives COSA attorneys and attendees the chance to get updated on crucial school law trends and challenges our school board clients are facing,” said Greg Guercio, the 2014-2015 COSA Chair and Seminar Committee Chair.  “This is our largest Seminar.  It brings in 350+ school attorneys.  We really look forward to connecting with our colleagues and getting updated on the legal advocacy work of NSBA, as well.”

COSA sessions will be led by experienced school attorneys on relevant issues such as “What the Louisiana Voucher Litigation Means for You and Your Clients,” “Your Top Ten FERPA Questions – Asked and Answered,” and “The Alpha and the Omega: An Anti-Christ to Yoga Update on Litigation Affecting Student Religious Rights in Public Schools.”

Alexis Rice|April 1st, 2014|Categories: Leadership, School Climate, School Law, Special Education, Teachers|Tags: , , , |

U.S. Department of Education issues guidelines on student data privacy

The U.S. Department of Education has issued new online resource guidelines to help school districts and educators interpret major laws for protecting student privacy and develop best practices for using online educational services.

The report, Protecting Student Privacy While Using Educational Services: Requirements and Best Practices,  issued by the department’s Privacy Technical Assistance Center (PTAC), noted that classrooms are increasingly employing technological advances such as on-demand delivery of personalized content, virtual forms of interacting with teachers and other students, and many other interactive technologies.

“Early adopters of these technologies have demonstrated their potential to transform the educational process, but they have also called attention to possible challenges,” says the report. “In particular, the information-sharing, web-hosting, and telecommunications innovations that have enabled these new education technologies raise questions about how best to protect student privacy during use.”

Examples of online educational services include online services that students use to access class readings, see their academic progress, watch videos, or comment on class activities, the report said. Complicating the issue is the fact that  “the diversity and variety” of these online educational services provide no single answer regarding which technologies, and which student data disclosures and uses, are covered by the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).

As is often the case with emerging technologies, the interpretation of existing laws such as FERPA and the Protection of Pupil Rights Amendment are slower to evolve than the technology itself. These issues continue to be at the forefront of discussions among educators, software companies, legal experts, and others with a stake in student data privacy.

“Student data privacy has received a great deal of national attention in recent months, with many groups working to develop resources for their own constituents and collaborating with others to determine best practices,” said National School Boards Association (NSBA) Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel. “NSBA has been a part of this national conversation.”

NSBA’s Council of School Attorneys (COSA) formed a working group on student privacy this year, which will issue a guide for school attorneys this spring.  “We are producing a resource for school attorneys that will help them navigate the legal landscape and identify best practices for student data privacy protection that go beyond legal compliance,” said COSA Chair Allison Brown Schafer of the North Carolina School Boards Association. NSBA will issue guidance for school board members.

“As an education community, we have to do a far better job of helping teachers and administrators understand technology and data issues so that they can appropriately protect privacy while ensuring teachers and students have access to effective and safe tools,” U.S. Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan said. “We must provide our schools, teachers, and students cutting-edge learning tools — and we must protect our children’s privacy. We can accomplish both — but we will have to try harder to do it.”

The report discussed several best practices schools should use to protect student privacy when using online educational services. Among them are: maintaining an awareness of relevant federal, state, tribal, or local laws; having policies and procedures to evaluate proposed online educational services; and being transparent with student and parents about how schools collect, share, protect, and use student data.

Read more in NSBA’s Legal Clips.

Alexis Rice|March 6th, 2014|Categories: Educational Technology, School Law|Tags: , , , , , |

NSBA urges federal courts to correctly apply IDEA

Working with two state school boards associations, the National School Boards Association (NSBA) has signed on to amicus briefs in cases that would impact school districts’ ability to provide special education services to students.

These amicus briefs—one filed in the U. S. Supreme Court in two California cases, the other in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit dealing with a Kentucky case—ask the courts to reconsider rulings that misinterpret the main federal special education law, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

In the Supreme Court brief, which addresses two consolidated cases, Tustin Unified School District v. K.M. and Poway Unified School District v. D.H., NSBA and the California School Boards Association encourage the U.S. Supreme Court to hear these cases, contending that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit misapplied the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), rather than correctly applying IDEA, to a case involving a California student with a hearing impairment.

In its ruling, the Ninth Circuit deferred to an interpretation of the ADA urged by the U.S. Department of Justice, which argued that school districts have additional obligations under the ADA’s “effective communication” regulation, even when they have put in place Individualized Education Programs (IEP) that meet the IDEA’s requirement to provide a free appropriate public education (FAPE).

“It is important for the U.S. Supreme Court to take this case, as the Ninth Circuit opinion ignores 20 years of precedents on special education law and represents yet another example of a federal agency exceeding its authority over educational decision making,” NSBA Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel said.

In each of the California cases, the school district denied the request of a high school student with hearing disabilities to use a word-for-word translation service in the classroom, but offered other accommodations. In each case, both the administrative hearing officers and the district court found that the school district had fully complied with the IDEA. However, the Ninth Circuit sided with the plaintiffs, saying that the ADA imposes additional obligations not covered under IDEA.

Under IDEA’s cooperative team approach to assessing the appropriate accommodations for children with disabilities, a multidisciplinary IEP team determines a student’s educational needs based on comprehensive evaluations by specialists in the field.  Under the Ninth Circuit’s decision, NSBA argues, school districts must give “primary consideration” to the parents’ desire for specific services, programs, placements or supports—regardless of whether they are appropriate.

In a third case, Boone County Board of Education v. N.W. , NSBA is joining with the Kentucky School Boards Association in urging the Sixth Circuit to reverse a district court decision involving a student with autism and a speech disorder. The issue before the court is whether a school district must  pay for a private school placement unilaterally chosen by the student’s parents when the district has made a “free and appropriate public education” (FAPE) available to the student.

“The decision in Boone County Board of Education v. N.W., as it stands, would force cash-strapped school districts to bear the high costs of private placements during litigation, even when a court ultimately rules that the district has made FAPE available in a public school setting,” said NSBA General Counsel Francisco M. Negrón Jr. “The lower court’s decision sets a terrible precedent that prolongs due process and court proceedings and discourages informal resolution of special education disputes through mediated settlement. It must be reversed.”

 

Alexis Rice|February 4th, 2014|Categories: Federal Programs, School Law, Special Education|Tags: , , , , |

Expanding School Choice: An Education Revolution or Diversion?

Patte Barth,  director of the Center for Public Education at the National School Boards Association, penned  the following column for the Huffington Post:

House majority leader Eric Cantor (R-Va) was speaking recently at the release of the Brookings Institution’s latest report on Education Choice and Competition. Calling these policies “an education revolution,” the House leader baldly stated, “school choice is the surest way to break [the] vicious cycle of poverty.”

Not “a solid education.”  School choice.

The Brookings’ report ranks 100 large districts on their school choice policies. Their report came out in advance of National School Choice Week whose organizers boast 5,500 scheduled events across the country beginning January 26, 2014. Both share a goal to drum up more support for funneling tax dollars into educational options — whether they be charters, magnets, private, or virtual schools.  The rationale is that a free marketplace will force schools to innovate in order to compete for students. Popular schools will equate with “good schools” and unpopular ones will close. And thus, in Brookings words, we will raise “the quality of the product.”

Unfortunately, that’s one mighty big assumption.

Most choice advocates defend their position by pointing to successful charter schools in New York City and elsewhere. Others extol the promise of virtual learning. What they all provide, for the most part, is anecdote, intuition and belief. When they do cite data, it basically shows that choice policies work in some places with some students some of the time.  Truth is, the evidence is much spottier than the champions for choice would have us believe.

Charter schools, for example, are the most studied “choice” reform.  Charter schools are public schools that have certain requirements waived so they can try out new ideas.  There is much to commend successful charters and what they are learning about effective practices. But according to a 2013 study from Stanford researchers, these are the exception. Only one in four charter schools outperforms its traditional public school counterpart in reading. About one in five performs significantly worse. In math, it’s nearly one in three.

The quality of research on voucher programs is notoriously uneven and often contradictory. Nonetheless, there seems to be general agreement that vouchers may have had a modest impact on some low-income and minority youth in some urban districts. But the findings are inconclusive as to their effect overall.  And the general efficacy of virtual schools is a big unknown, largely because districts lack the infrastructure to sufficiently track student performance in online environments.

Ironically, the Brookings report card itself illustrates the disconnect between choice policies on one hand and student performance on the other.  One does not necessarily follow the other.

Only three districts earned A’s on Brookings choice and competition rankings:  Louisiana’s Recovery District, Orleans Parish and New York City. Along with its Brookings “A,” Orleans Parish earned an “A” on Louisiana’s report card for district performance.  Yet the state gave the Recovery District an F. New York City’s A- from Brookings bears little relation to its math scores on NAEP, a national assessment. The city’s scores were at the average for large cities, and below average in terms of gains over the last decade.

Then there’s the low end of the rankings. Atlanta was given an “F” by Brookings. Yet the city boasts fourth-graders who perform above the national “large city” average in reading and posted more than twice the gains their peers made nationwide.  Charlotte, North Carolina, and Austin, Texas, are among the highest performing urban districts in both math and reading. Brookings gave them a C and D respectively.

see full data tables

 

So what does this tell us? That high-achieving, high-gaining districts can have “choice and competition” or not. Either way, it shows it’s a mistake to claim, as Rep. Cantor does, that choice is “the surest way to break the cycle of poverty.”

Contrary to popular perception, public schools have been steadily improving over the last twenty years. Math performance and graduation rates, in particular, are at all-time highs. Neither are public schools the monolithic creature some of the choice advocates make them out to be. Many districts across the country already offer alternatives in the form of charter and magnet schools, and continue to diversify instructional programs in traditional neighborhood schools, too. But parents and students need assurance that the choices they are offered are good ones, something choice for choice’s sake has not done, as the research shows.

In addition, it’s one thing to offer alternatives. It’s quite another to encourage public schools to compete with each other for students which could send the wrong messages. We need only look to our colleges and universities who, in their race to attract students, build football teams and state-of-the-art facilities at the expense of investments in teaching.  I really doubt that’s the kind of marketplace we want to create for public schools.

Far from an education revolution, the political attention given choice and competition is diverting us from the hard work of making sure public schools prepare every child for their next steps after graduation.  This means continuing to invest in those things that an abundance of evidence shows consistently work  – access to high-quality pre-kindergarten, effective teachers, rigorous curriculum and individualized instruction for students. It also means learning from successful schools — including schools of choice — about what works with different students in which situations, and bringing those practices to scale.  When we get that right, districts will earn the grades that really matter.

Joetta Sack-Min|January 22nd, 2014|Categories: Center for Public Education, Educational Legislation, Educational Research, Federal Advocacy, Governance, Legislative advocacy, Religion, School Law, School Reform, School Vouchers, Student Achievement|Tags: , , , , , , |

NSBA urges high court to review “I Heart Boobies” case

The National School Boards Association (NSBA), joined by other leading education groups and a state school boards association, is urging the U.S. Supreme Court to accept Easton Area Sch. Dist. v. B.H for review and to reverse the appellate court’s decision as contrary to well-established Supreme Court precedent.

The case focuses on a school district decision to require two female  students at a Pennsylvania middle school  to remove bracelets with the slogan, “I  ♥ Boobies KEEP A BREAST,” because of reports that the bracelets were causing a distraction for students, including instances of possible sexual harassment.

NSBA is joined by AASA, the School Superintendents Association; the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP), and the Pennsylvania School Boards Association (PSBA) in asking the Supreme Court to reverse the decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit and reaffirm that school officials have authority to determine that messages such as “I Y Boobies” disrupt the school environment and interfere with the rights of others.

“NSBA is representing the voices of parents and others who want their children focused on education and protected from lewd speech while attending public schools,” said NSBA Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel. “This important amicus brief urges the Supreme Court to recognize the authority of school officials to regulate student speech during the school day if such speech disrupts the school environment or interferes with the responsibility of schools to teach civil discourse as an inherent democratic value and to protect the rights and sensibilities of other students.”

“The Third Circuit ruling forces school officials to jettison educational judgments for highly legalistic ones in a way that jeopardizes the day-to-day work of public schools and potentially harms students,” said NSBA General Counsel Francisco M. Negrón, Jr. “This ruling misreads Supreme Court precedent recognizing that school officials have the authority to determine what is appropriate speech in schools and to limit student expression that is contrary to their educational mission.”

The appellate court introduced a new standard that conflates language from two separate Supreme Court cases in a way that leaves school officials subject to litigation and restricts their ability to maintain harassment-free school environments. It replaces well-established precedents with a legally complex test that requires school officials to discern whether the student speech is “plainly lewd” or “ambiguously lewd.” If the speech falls into the latter category, it may not be regulated if it could be interpreted as political or social commentary.

Joetta Sack-Min|January 6th, 2014|Categories: Discipline, Federal Advocacy, Governance, Leadership, School Law|Tags: , |

NCSBA lawsuit challenges constitutionality of voucher law

The following story was written by the North Carolina School Boards Association (NCSBA):

A lawsuit filed on Monday, Dec. 16, 2013 in Wake County Superior Court challenges the constitutionality of legislation passed earlier this year that creates a private school voucher program using public funds. Under the legislation, which takes effect in the 2014-15 school year, a private school can receive up to $4,200 in public funding for each eligible student that it enrolls. The legislation does not require that a student struggle academically or attend a poorly performing public school in order to receive a voucher. It also does not require any assurance that public funds will be spent to provide students with an adequate education and one that is offered on a non-discriminatory basis.

The suit was filed by four individual taxpayers, three of whom have children attending public schools, and the North Carolina School Boards Association (NCSBA), a nonprofit, nonpartisan membership association that represents all 115 local boards of education in the state and the Board of Education of the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Nation.

The legislation initially appropriates $10 million in public funds. The complaint alleges that public funding will rise to $50 million in future budget cycles.

“This challenge raises important questions about the use of public funds and our commitment to North Carolina’s students,” said Shearra Miller, president of the NCSBA and a member of the Cleveland County Board of Education. “By diverting funding from the public schools, vouchers have the potential to significantly damage individual school systems, particularly in smaller districts. As a local board member, I am concerned about the impact that will have on our students. In addition, the voucher program does not ensure that private schools that receive public funding will adhere to our constitution’s promise that students will have the opportunity to receive a sound basic education and will not face discrimination. Given all of these issues, the NCSBA Board of Directors felt strongly that the organization should raise these questions in court.”

The complaint asserts that the legislation violates the state constitution by:

• Using public dollars for a non-public purpose—private education opportunities outside of the constitutionally required “general and uniform system of free public schools;”

• Failing to require participating private schools to adhere to any substantive educational standards or practice non-discriminatory admissions;

• Diverting public dollars from the State School Fund, which is to be used “exclusively for establishing and maintaining a uniform system of public schools;” and

• Creating a system of selective secondary educational opportunities that denies students equal opportunities.

 

Staff|December 19th, 2013|Categories: Board governance, Educational Finance, Policy Formation, School Boards, School Law, School Vouchers, State School Boards Associations|Tags: , , |

NSBA addresses new report on cloud computing in public schools

The rapidly-evolving web-based services that have enabled school districts to streamline record keeping and make timely, data-driven decisions are also creating big challenges for safeguarding student information and preventing unauthorized use by third-party providers, a new report says.

“Cloud computing” services have helped school districts store and manage vast amounts of information, says the study released Friday by the Center on Law and Information Policy at Fordham Law School. But “we’re worried about the implications for students over time, how their information can be used or misused,” Joel R. Reidenberg, a Fordham law professor and the report’s lead author, told The New York Times.

The issue also concerns National School Boards Association’s (NSBA) Council of School Attorneys (COSA), which earlier this year set up a Cloud Computing and Student Privacy Working Group that plans to issue two resources in the coming months: the first a comprehensive legal primer for school attorneys, and the second an issue-spotting guide for school board members. Both publications aim to raise operational awareness for policy makers. COSA Director Sonja H. Trainor participated in a forum on the issue at Harvard University’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society in November and was among about 20 education, industry, and data experts asked to discuss the report’s recommendations at Microsoft’s Washington, D.C., offices.

The report, Privacy and Cloud Computing in Public Schools, notes that many school districts employ cloud-based services, but cautions that policies and contracts are not transparent to the public, and appear to lack some important privacy protections. It is based on information provided by 20 school districts.

The report estimated that 95 percent of the reporting school districts “rely on cloud services for a diverse range of functions, including data mining related to student performance, support for classroom activities, student guidance, data hosting, as well as special services such as cafeteria payments and transportation planning.” Yet the report estimated that 20 percent of the reporting districts do not have policies governing the use of online services, and many districts have significant gaps in their contract documentation no student privacy provisions.

Only 25 percent of the responding districts inform parents that they are using cloud services to store information, the report said. “Fewer than 7 percent of the contracts restrict the sale or marketing of student information by vendors,” the report said, “and many agreements allow the vendors to change the terms without notice.”

In an interview with School Board News Today, N. Cameron Russell, the Fordham Law Center’s Executive Director and a member of the research team, said the report is based on contracts and other documents received from the 20 school districts studied, which vary in size and are located throughout the country. He emphasized that the practices concerning safeguarding of information often go beyond the language in the contracts — something the Software and Information Industry Association emphasized in commenting on the study.

Still, the report’s authors expressed concern over the lack of specific language in many vendor contracts regarding such issues as maintaining the privacy of student data and preventing its commercial use.

Rapidly evolving web-based technologies such as cloud computing offer the potential for significant advances in individualized instruction and assessment – and many school districts are on the cutting edge of these innovations, said NSBA General Counsel Francisco M. Negrón Jr.

“Schools want to help students succeed, and web-based technology is helping them do this in innovative and creative ways,” Negrón said. “At the same time, it is important to inform and engage parents and communities about these developments and ensure vendor contracts protect student privacy and address restrictions on third-party use of data.”

The report concluded with several recommendations for school districts. Among them are putting “the existence and identity of cloud service providers and the privacy protections for student data’ on district websites and “establishing policies and implementation plans for the adoption of cloud services by teachers and staff,” including in-service training and an easy mechanism for teachers to adopt and propose technologies for instructional use.

 

Lawrence Hardy|December 16th, 2013|Categories: Board governance, Computer Uses in Education, Council of School Attorneys, Data Driven Decision Making, Educational Technology, Governance, School Law, School Security|
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