Online Privacy and Safety Resources
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the health and safety of all students is the priority of the New York State Education Department. We recognize that these are unusual times that require the ability to be creative and flexible in our approach for purposes of delivering educational services to students during school closures caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. For general information about our response to COVID-19, please visit the NYSED Coronavirus (COVID-19) website.
The continuity of education for students during the COVID-19 pandemic is of utmost importance to the Department during this time, and we recognize that schools are utilizing digital online tools to deliver classes and communicate with staff and students. We know that parents, students and even educational agency staff may have questions related to the privacy and security of student data when these tools are used. Parents and the community are critical contributors to each student’s success and we will do our best to keep you informed. Please visit our COVID-19 Resources for Families and Communities website for valuable resources for families and communities.
If a district has made the decision to use online tools as part of a continuity of learning plan, it is the district’s responsibility to ensure compliance with all applicable laws and regulations, including FERPA, COPPA, IDEA, Education Law § 2-d, and the new Part 121 of the Commissioner of Education’s Regulations. Education Law § 2-d and Part 121 outline requirements for educational agencies related to the protection of the personally identifiable information (PII) of students in the student’s records, as well as PII related to annual professional performance reviews (APPR). Further, the definition of ‘third party contractor’ makes it clear that any person or entity that is not an educational agency, that receives student data or teacher or principal data from a school district, BOCES or other educational agency for purposes of providing services, must do so pursuant to a contract or other written agreement. Education Law §2-d includes requirements for such contractors and the contracts with which they are engaged.
We understand that questions and concerns will continue to arise during this time. Please refer to our Continuity of Learning website for regular updates to these questions.
U.S. Department of Education
Specifically, the SPPO has issued a FAQ to assist school officials in protecting student privacy and the disclosure of personally identifiable information (PII) during remote learning during the COVID-19 pandemic. This information is available at FERPA & Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Frequently Asked Questions.
In addition, the SPPO has issued guidelines and resources for virtual learning and the application of FERPA during the COVID-19 pandemic, which is available at: FERPA and Virtual Learning Related Resources (March 2020).
Federal Trade Commission
Schools: The Federal Trade Commission has published guidance to help schools comply with the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) and the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Rule when implementing and using technology to provide remote learning. General Information from the Federal Trade Commission can be found at: COPPA Guidance for Ed Tech Companies and Schools during the Coronavirus.
Section M of the Federal Trade Commission’s “Complying with COPPA: Frequently Asked Questions” specifically addresses issues that schools may face. That guidance can be found at: Complying with COPPA: Frequently Asked Questions – Section M. COPPA and Schools.
Parents: For Parents, the Federal Trade Commission has numerous resources to help you protect your children when they engage in online activities. Those resources can be found at FTC Consumer Information: Protecting Kids Online.
Kids: The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) also has resources to help kids learn about online safety. A list of the publications can be found at FTC Consumer Information: Kids Online.
The publication “Heads Up: Stop, Think, Connect” is written and designed for kids. This FTC publication gives kids information that they need to protect themselves while online.
Kids: The FBI has the Safe Online Surfing program for kids. This program is a fun interactive adventure for kids that teaches them about online safety. Even though the programs are tailored for 4th through 8th graders, anyone can play and learn while having fun!
U.S. Department of Homeland Security
Schools: The Department of Homeland Security has a created a factsheet for schools that is available at: Cyber Safety Considerations for K-12 Schools and School Districts.
Parents: The Department of Homeland Security has many tips for parents with children who use online resources. These tips can be found at: Security Tips: Keeping Children Safe Online.
The White House
Parents: The First Lady’s publication “Talking with Kids About Being Online” provides useful information to parents and encourages them to talk with their kids about online safety.