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Louisiana law takes a step toward protecting student data

Sienna Kossman

The state of Louisiana has joined the growing ranks of public and private entities looking to protect sensitive student information from potential data breaches and identity theft.

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindahl signed House Bill 1076 into law June 23 to eliminate the collection of student Social Security numbers for academic files and give parents more control over what information is released to school districts and associated parties.

“I am proud to sign HB1076 into law, which will ensure student personal information is protected,” said Jindahl. “Our children and parents should not have to fear the exposure of private, personal information when they enroll in school, and this bill helps prevent abuses.”

As with student data legislation in New York and Florida, Louisiana’s call to action stemmed a fear of the unknown.

Louisiana stands up for student data protection

Like New York’s scenario in particular, concerns surrounding a public school system contract with cloud-based data management group inBloom led to more in-depth discussions about student data security. (See my report, “Are schools putting your child’s information at risk?“)

Louisiana Superintendent of Education John White promoted the use of inBloom third-party data management and storage services as tools for better serving teachers and students. But parents weren’t sure the potential benefits of mass data collection outweighed the risks children may face if their personal information falls into the wrong hands, according to The Advocate last July.

These concerns contributed to the cancellation of Louisiana’s inBloom services in 2013.

Despite further opposition from organizations such as the Software and Information Industry Association, which feared the bill would “inappropriately and unnecessarily inhibit core educational functions necessary to serve Louisiana’s students,” HB1076 gained overwhelming support from both parents and legislators. It passed 38-0 in the Louisiana senate with 30 co-authors before being sent to the governor.

Under the new law, now Act 837, Louisiana’s Department of Education must develop a system for unique student identification numbers by May 1, 2015, to replace the Social Security numbers that are currently a part of each student’s academic file. The new ID numbers cannot include or be based on Social Security numbers and will be distributed to each public school student by June 1, 2015.

Act 837 will also prohibit public school districts from collecting personally identifiable student data without parent permission after June 1, 2015, with the exception of collections needed for State Education Department requests and federal reporting requirements.

Louisiana defines personally identifiable information as the following:

  • Any information that can be used to trace an individual’s identity, such as full name, Social Security number, date and place of birth or biometric records
  • Medical, educational, financial and employment information
  • Two or more pieces of information that when linked together can determine an individual’s identity

The legislation also outlines protections for other points of student information including family income, criminal history, biometric details and even home Internet IP addresses.

According to the legislation’s sponsor, Rep. John Schroder, “The intent of the bill is to keep personally identifiable data within the school districts so that they can function and continue necessary student services.”

And so the call to action for student data protection continues.

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