EdTech Hero: Kim Nesmith problem-solves student privacy issues in Louisiana

Nesmith has shepherded school systems in the state as they navigate "one of the most restrictive student privacy laws in the nation."
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Louisiana’s Kim Nesmith recognizes the importance of safeguarding and defending student privacy — it’s her job, and one she takes very seriously. But a strict state law has made compliance complicated and risks discouraging educators from using technology in the classroom.

Nesmith fights every day to ease the burden on those educators and ensure school systems have a plan in place to “support the use of educational technology while ensuring student privacy is a priority,” she told EdScoop.

As the data governance and privacy director at Louisiana’s Department of Education, Nesmith has developed a roadmap for schools trying to navigate “one of the most restrictive privacy laws in the nation.”

The law, Nesmith said, prohibits school districts from collecting certain data from students, from sharing students’ personally identifiable information (PII) with the state education department and from sending or sharing PII in all but a few circumstances. When it passed in 2014, “all work with education data and technology became very challenging,” she said.


In response, Nesmith and her team developed the Louisiana Data Governance and Student Privacy Guidebook, which outlines six steps for creating and executing a comprehensive student privacy plan and spells out federal and state laws, noting unique limitations under Louisiana’s law.

After releasing the guidebook last fall, Nesmith and her staff led training and webinars to help school and district leaders understand protocol and “execute with fidelity.”

“[Nesmith] seeks the next problem to solve and she excels in trailblazing new paths for the agency,” said Jessica Baghian, assistant superintendent at the Louisiana education department and Nesmith’s supervisor.

“She is always ready for the next challenge … and our students are better protected because of it,” Baghian told EdScoop.

Read more from EdScoop’s series “EdTech Heroes: 25 State Leaders Making a Difference.”

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