The District Assembles a Team to Protect Student Data
In the early stages of examining his district’s student data privacy practice, Perkins realized he was going to need a team. “All of the school divisions that have earned this seal have a district-level data privacy team,” Perkins says. “So, one of the first things we did was put that together.”
The RCPS data privacy team consists of nine individuals, including the district’s superintendent and its two assistant superintendents.
“We’re fortunate and a little bit unique here because our superintendent, Oskar Scheikl, was a former technology director for our division,” Perkins notes. “He also has a graduate degree in computer security.”
This made it easier to convey to leadership the importance of developing a student data privacy framework for the district, Perkins says. Scheikl gave his support to the plan right away, and once the data privacy team came together, the district was able to start meeting the CoSN guidelines.
The IT Team Vets New Online Resources
One policy Perkins and the team implemented was a system through which teachers could request digital resources. As part of a new workflow, RCPS educators can put in a request whenever they want to start using a new resource, and the technology department then reviews it. This allows the IT team to vet any new technologies to ensure they are safe and in line with the district’s budget and curricula.
Teachers have been on board with the additional step for acquiring new resources, Perkins says. “We were careful to communicate it in terms of ‘this is about student data. It’s important, and it’s our job to protect it.’ I think teachers understand that,” he says.
Having the technology department vet resources also takes the pressure off teachers, Perkins adds, because they then don’t need to investigate the resource themselves. Educators have enough on their plates, and dealing with the consequences of a pandemic has added to that.
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The Pandemic Changes Student Data Privacy Needs
The biggest shift for the student data privacy team in March 2020 was the increase in online resources. Suddenly, students and educators didn’t just want to use online tools, they had to. “The pandemic introduced even more online resources for people to use, and student data is needed to make those resources useful for students and teachers,” Perkins says.