I have some significant concerns about the article on FERPA [the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act] and kids’ online privacy (“Dad: Coach’s recruitment site violated son’s privacy,” July 2003, http://www.eschoolnews.com/news/showStory.cfm?ArticleID=4495).

A reasonable reading of FERPA would provide the legal ability for a district to post all of the information called “directory information” online, as long as parents have designated this information as directory information. This is basically what your article says, and in this point it is correct. But what the coach posted about the students went beyond FERPA directory information.

I do not believe that most parents would contemplate that the district would post this kind of information online if they approve the release of “FERPA directory information” on the standard district form. And I think many would be angry at a district for posting directory information about students on the premise that they have the right to do so because the parent has approved the release of this information as FERPA directory information.

Even if a district has the right under FERPA to post this kind of personal information about students online, I strongly advocate that it should not do so. I think the restrictions against posting information online should be much more stringent. They should, however, be age-based: information on younger children should be much more limited than information posted about high school students. Home addresses should never be posted. And parents should be asked specifically to provide written permission prior to any information about a student being posted online.

Another thing this article left out is that the CIPA [Children’s Internet Protection Act] safety plan requirements address this issue specifically. Districts must have an internet safety policy that addresses “unauthorized disclosure, use, and dissemination of personal identification regarding minors” [47 USC § 254 (I)(1)(A)(iv)].

Parry [Aftab, the lawyer quoted in the story] does a lot of good things, but she has not focused much on educational law or internet-use policies in schools.

–Nancy Willard, M.S., J.D., Center for Advanced Technology in Education University of Oregon, College of Education

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