CoSN releases updated toolkit for privacy protection in schools

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The Consortium for School Networking released the latest version of its privacy toolkit, which offers guidance for school leaders on improving privacy protections and understanding federal privacy policies.

“There’s a lot that’s new,” said Linnette Attai, project director for CoSN’s privacy initiative. “Almost every section in the existing toolkit has been expanded … to include a lot more guidance in the way of practical application.”

This update — the third of its kind — includes new details and requirements for navigating key federal student data privacy laws, such as the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) and the Protection of Pupil Rights Amendment (PPRA).

Officially known as the “Protecting Privacy in Connected Learning Toolkit, Version 3,” this guide also explains how major federal privacy laws work in conjunction with one another and defines important terms, agreements and norms of student data privacy and security.

“It’s really putting it all together in one place and saying, ‘These are the key privacy responsibilities [schools] have and here is how to approach them. Here’s what they mean and here are tools and tips,’” Attai said.

The CoSN toolkit also outlines a step-by-step process for education leaders as they consider adopting new policies and practices — from what questions to ask as they consider handing over student data, to how federal privacy laws operate together, to who must consent before information is released. Because each law is different and comes into play under different circumstances, it can be overwhelming for school leaders to memorize, understand and apply those rules each time, Attai said. This toolkit aims to help simplify some of that.

And whether the school is just starting out or wants to improve on existing policies and norms, Attai said the new version offers guidance for all ranges of school-wide resources and expertise.

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