Keyonna Summers reports:
Names, addresses, phone numbers and birth dates of Brevard’s nearly 73,000 public school students are available to virtually anyone who asks through a simple public records request.
So far, only the military, colleges and research institutions have asked, but school board members worry about who else might request the data.
They want to revisit the district’s “directory information” policy to ensure that it strikes the right balance between protecting a student’s privacy and supporting a citizen’s right to public information. The district has received nine requests for data already this school year.
Read more on FloridaToday.com.
Such “directory” information has routinely been available under the federal privacy law concerning educational records known as FERPA. Parents can send their child’s school district a notice that they do not want the data shared with military recruiters and others, but most parents either do not seem to know this, do not recognize the importance of it, or just never seem to get around to sending in the opt-out notice.
In light of those who are using children’s identities for identity theft and fraud purposes, I think it’s a good idea to revisit the issue — and not just in Broward. The public interest could be satisfied by aggregated statistics about students in a district or state based on demographics such as numbers of each race, SES, religion, disability classification, etc. Where reporters are working on investigations such as whether children are being illegally enrolled in districts, then the more specific data does come into play, but for the most part, I think the default state should be not to provide “directory” information. Yes, I realize this will make it harder for military recruiters, but the school can have a careers day where military recruiters participate like colleges and employers do.