May 262015
 May 26, 2015  Featured News, Youth & Schools

In a post earlier this morning, I agreed with Danah Boyd that not enough attention is being paid to the criminal justice threat model in discussing student privacy and in attempts to reform FERPA.

Now look at this article on Inside Higher Ed by Scott Jaschik and consider these statistics:

  • Almost three-quarters of colleges and universities collect high school disciplinary information (many through the question on the subject included on the Common Application).
  • Of those that collect the information, 89 percent report that they use the information in admissions decisions.


The issue of whether high school disciplinary infractions are relevant to college admissions has long challenged both high schools and colleges. Many fear that a minor misdeed of a high school freshman could unreasonably hurt an applicant. But many also worry that someone who might pose a danger to fellow students could be admitted without the college knowing the risks.

A related debate is whether colleges should ask about and consider applicants’ criminal backgrounds. Students at Princeton University last year urged the institution (without success) to stop asking about applicants’ criminal past, arguing that the criminal justice system is unfair to many minority, low-income people, such that a conviction may not mean anything.

What k-12 schools do in terms of privacy protections that impact discipline and criminal referrals makes a huge difference in the lives of students, and we need a lot more discussion and consideration of these issues. There are First Amendment issues, Fourth Amendment issues, Fifth Amendment issues, and issues of systemic bias against students of color and students with disabilities.

So if you want to keep talking about unwanted marketing to students, that’s your right, of course, but I’d really encourage you to look at this other aspect of student privacy and work to strengthen related privacy protections – before we permanently diminish the future of many students who are already at a disadvantage in our society.

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