Danedri Thompson
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USD 231 parents will have to opt in to allow their children to take part in informational surveys. Until recently, parents opted out instead of opting in, but a state law, effective last July, required the change.
School board members approved a student data privacy policy for the district in accordance with the Kansas Student Data Privacy Act, or Senate Bill 367.
“One of the portions of that was to require every school district to have a policy reflecting that bill,” Ben Boothe, director of educational services, told the board.
Under the new policy, parents will have the opportunity to opt their students into surveys and information collection during enrollment.
Superintendent Pam Stranathan parents could also opt in or out at various points throughout the school year.
“We will still notify parents, like we currently do, if we’re doing any surveys,” Stranathan said. “I would rather (parents) have checkpoints throughout the year.”
The district occasionally collects sensitive but anonymous information through surveys on things like bullying, drug use and other activities. The data is used in grant applications for funding of things like the district’s character education program.
Stranathan said the new data rules has affected some of the district’s grant funding, but student privacy and anonymity has improved with technology.
Parents are always notified when students will be taking such surveys.
“We firmly believe those need to be anonymous and they are,” Stranathan said. “A lot of (the surveys) are now online, so it’s not even a chance of a paper copy.”
Board member Brad Chandler said it’s important that the district communicate with parents about what questions are asked in those surveys.
“I’ve seen some of the surveys that have been handed out in other public schools — not in Kansas,” he said. “Some of the questions they ask are, personally, none of their damn business. It’s great that we can have a choice for the parents if they choose not to, and then they can actually view what questions are going to be asked.”
The new policy outlines to whom aggregate student data can be disclosed. For example, the data can be given to authorized personnel of an educational agency or state board and to parents or the legal guardians of students.
Parents must specify or give written permission for individual, identifiable data to be disclosed.
If ever there is a data breach, the policy says the district will be required to disclose the breach to the parents of each affected student.
The policy also limits the district from collecting biometric data, or measurable biological or behavioral characteristics.
The policy does allow the district to question students without parental permission for the provision of psychological services, to conduct student threat assessments, for completing disciplinary investigations and to conduct child abuse investigations.
Board members approved the new policy during the Jan. 12 board meeting. The board is next scheduled to meet at 6 p.m. on Feb. 9 in the district board room.