As educators, we are privy to a lot of private data that helps us understand our students needs. What they know, what they don’t know, and any special services they are in need of in order for them to be successful in school. Having open access to this information is serious business and there are a handful of laws that exist to keep things in check and ensure everyone is handling student data correctly and securing it safely.
The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), which was passed in 1974, states that we need to use reasonable industry best practices to secure student data. In 1974 that might have been as simple as locking your door when you left the classroom. In today’s connected classroom however, securing student data is a whole different ball of wax. Here are five things you should be doing in order to better secure your student’s data as well as your own personal data.
- Lock Your Computer: This is something we don’t think about very often, but everytime you leave the room or leave your computer unattended you should be locking your computer. Locking it prevents anyone from accessing it without the password. That leads us to step number two.
- Create Strong Passwords: Passwords are considered strong when they are long, unique, and not taped to the computer monitor or hidden underneath the keyboard or on a post-it note. It’s also not recommended that educators use their web browsers to remember passwords either. Our earlier article on Password Managers will help you in this department.
- Beware of Emails: You should never click on a link or an attachment from an email unless you are certain it is safe. Email is still the number one way that malware is installed on computers so be careful. Always check the actual email address in the “from” section rather than quickly glancing at the first/last name of the sender. If you receive an email from a friend but it looks fishy, you should message them via another source before you click on anything.
- Store Your Files Safely: You shouldn’t save anything that contains or could potentially contain a students personally identifiable information to your computer’s hard drive. If a laptop gets stolen or lost, that information could easily be compromised. Instead, store student data on a network drive that your school has set up with firewall protections and other securities. Even Google Drive is a safer option than storing something on your desktop.
- Delete Unnecessary Data: If you are holding onto data from previous semesters or school years, you should look into securely deleting it. It’s good practice to look at old files and ask “why do I still need this?” The same goes for physical files. You should shred physical files before recycling them or throwing them away so you don’t end up with IEPs strewn across the neighborhood after a windstorm. Yes, this actually happened.
And there you have it, five steps you can take action on today to ensure you are securing student data properly. You can also consult your school’s technology team and administrators about proper procedures and/or protocols that may already be in place.
Link to the Safer Internet Day 2018 article on Machiavelli school site
Quizzes done by German pupils about eSafety: Enjoy playing them!
Eslem tried out the game: Connect fours
eSafety at our school
A public quiz for schools by Than Thao
A public quiz for social occasions