U.S. Department of Education Issues Updated Student Privacy Guidance Following Federal Commission on School Safety Report

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On February 5, 2019, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) released new and important regulatory guidance entitled “School Resource Officers, School Law Enforcement Units, and the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act.” This guidance document was prepared and issued in response to the December 2018 final report of the Federal Commission on School Safety (the Commission), which was established following the February 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Among the findings of that final report was the following, which concerns threat assessment efforts in the nation’s schools:

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Department of Education Posts CyberAdvisory on Extortion and Student Data Threats

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Acknowledging that schools have “long been targets for cyber thieves,” the Federal Student Aid Office (FSA) of the U.S. Department of Education (ED) posted an alert on October 16, warning school districts and other educational institutions of criminal extortion schemes threatening to release sensitive student data. Recent, similar cyberattacks in Montana and Iowa are being investigated by the FBI.

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FTC and Department of Education to Co-Host Workshop and Webcast on Privacy Issues in Education Technology

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The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the U.S. Department of Education (ED) will co-host a live workshop on December 1, 2017 highlighting two intersecting regulatory regimes: the FTC’s rules implementing the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), which applies to K-12 schools and to children under the age of 13, and the simultaneous application of the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), which also applies to schools and is administered by ED.

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Beyond FERPA: Safeguarding Student Data Is Key Obligation for Postsecondary Educational Institutions

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Most institutions of higher education are very familiar with the Family Educational Rights Protection Act (FERPA), which applies to all state and local, public and private educational institutions that receive federal funds through programs administered by the U.S. Department of Education (ED). Unless at least one of FERPA’s exceptions applies, institutions risk sanctions from ED – including the potential loss of all federal funding – if they disclose a student’s personally identifiable information (PII) from an education record without the student’s express prior written consent.  Beyond FERPA, higher education institutions have additional legal responsibilities to assiduously secure and protect student data from inadvertent disclosure, particularly financial information maintained by an institution regarding students or their families.

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