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Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin signs student privacy bill

Carrie Coppernoll Published: June 10, 2013

This just came out of the house:

OKLAHOMA CITY – A bill signing ceremony for House Bill 1989, the Student Data Accessibility, Transparency and Accountability Act (Student DATA Act), was held today at the State Capitol. This new law establishes Oklahoma as a leader in student privacy. The bill establishes new procedures and safeguards for the collection and use of student data by our public school system.

The Student DATA Act requires the State Board of Education to publicly set policies and establish safeguards for student data collected by the State Department of Education. Student data privacy has been handled largely at the staff level within the Department.

The law establishes new, strict limits on the transfer of student data, including de-identified data, to federal, state or local agencies or organizations outside Oklahoma. It further restricts the Department from requesting delinquency records, criminal records, medical and health records, social security numbers and biometric information as part of student data collected from districts.

Gov. Mary Fallin praised the successful effort to pass HB1989.

“The new law is a strong, conservative solution to a problem every state in the country is struggling to address,” said Gov. Fallin. “States play a vital role in protecting students’ privacy and Oklahoma takes that responsibility seriously. I applaud our legislators and Superintendent Barresi for working together on this legislation.”

Rep. David Brumbaugh, R-Broken Arrow, was the principle author of HB1989.

“Over time, I have been hearing more and more from parents about the data schools gathered about our children, what data was passed on to the state and federal governments and how that data could be used – and by whom,” said Rep. Brumbaugh. “These concerns are what prompted me to author this bill. The Student DATA Act is the critical first step in developing a set of comprehensive and strict privacy controls on student data collected by Oklahoma’s public school system.”

Rep. Jason Nelson, R-Oklahoma City, a House coauthor, helped draft the language of HB1989.

“As a parent of two children in public schools I know it’s important for educators to keep records on students so they can do their jobs,” said Rep. Nelson. “But, as a parent I also want the information handled appropriately. Now that the Student DATA Act opens the student data collection process to the public, everyone has the tools to help make sure there is an appropriate balance between having critical information about students but not collecting more data than is absolutely necessary while protecting such sensitive information.”

Sen. Greg Treat, R-Oklahoma City, the Senate author, noted it is rare for a bill dealing with education to get such overwhelming support.

“I was pleased to work with these individuals who have diverse perspectives on education,” said Sen. Treat. “Everyone came together to protect student data privacy.”

The new law addresses the growing need to protect more fully our children’s privacy as the State Department of Education works with districts to expand teacher access and use of data for the purpose of improving instruction to increase student achievement.

Rep. Jason Murphey, R-Guthrie, a House coauthor, highlighted the importance of transparency about data collection.

“The new law creates additional transparency,” said Rep. Murphey. “For the first time, the process for protecting student data will be required to be open to the public. Being open with the public is the best way to avoid problems in the future.”

Sen. Clark Jolley, R-Edmond, Senate coauthor, said the law protects student privacy while allowing essential data to be used for accountability purposes.

“It is paramount to protect student privacy by securing the data, but still allowing for funding decisions to be made from what is proven effective rather than what we hope or think will be effective,” said Sen. Jolley. “With state resources being so limited, every dollar counts.”

Superintendent Janet Barresi called the new law a well thought out approach to protect student information.

“The Oklahoma State Department of Education has been working with local administrators and teachers to determine what data they need from the state to improve student learning,” said Supt. Barresi. “As more data are made available to classroom teachers, the state needs thoughtful and transparent rules about who can access the data and how it can be used.”

It is anticipated this new level of transparency will lead to a healthy public debate about the proper role and scope of data collected on the State’s public school students. With the level of detail now available to the public, concerned Oklahomans will have the information necessary to better guide policy makers in decisions regarding the sensitive issue of information collected on students. As lawmakers, we look forward to a public conversation on this issue and expect to run additional legislation in the future to build on this foundation.

“This was a combined effort to ensure that the new law would achieve desired outcomes without causing unintended consequences for teachers and students,” says Rep. Brumbaugh, adding that, “we will continue to work with the Department of Education as they implement the law.”

HB1989 received near unanimous support, passing the House 88-2 and the Senate 41-0. The bill was signed by Gov. Fallin on May 29th and becomes effective July 1.

The Student DATA Act:

• requires the State Board of Education to publish a public inventory of student data elements collected by the State Department of Education with definitions of each student data element,

• requires the Board to publish a public list of additional student data elements it is proposing for collection including a statement about the reason for the proposal,

• requires the Board to develop and make public policies and procedures to comply with all relevant privacy laws,

• requires the Board to develop and make public policies limiting who can access student data, what student data can be accessed and the circumstances under which the data may be accessed,

• requires that student data collected and maintained by the Department be kept confidential except where the Board has developed and made publicly available the criteria for exceptions,

• requires the Board to ensure compliance by the Department with privacy laws,

• requires the Board to ensure vendor contracts include express provision that safeguard privacy and include penalties for noncompliance, and

• requires the Board to make annual reports to the Governor and Legislature.

• establishes new strict limits on the transfer of student data, including de-identified data, to federal, state or local agencies or organizations outside Oklahoma, and

• further restricts the Department from requesting delinquency records, criminal records, medical and health records, social security numbers and biometric information as part of student data collected from districts.

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