Student Privacy Bill Gets OK

Representative Jacob Anderegg (Republican - Lehi)
Representative Jacob Anderegg (Republican – Lehi)

A bill that seeks to protect student data was given unanimous approval from the House Education Committee Monday.

HB 68 – Student Privacy Act, sponsored by Representative Jake Anderegg (Republican – Lehi), now heads to the full House for its consideration.

The bill seeks to address what kind of information can be collected and stored by schools. Under the bill, student data will be divided into three categories – allowable, optional, and prohibited. Parental consent would be required in a number of cases. If passed, the new rules will not go into affect until the 2016-17 school year.

Allowable information will include basic information like a student’s grades, attendance level, and ethnicity. The bill also allows for some optional information will include parent income levels and marital status and student medical data. Prohibited information included under the bill will include a student’s criminal record, Social Security number, DNA, and fingerprints.

“In essence, any of the information that might be needed to be required can be required. The bulk of the information is allowable, but more sensitive information like these unique identifiers still require full disclosure with parental consent,” Anderegg told the committee. “We’ve left a lot of the decision-making for the State Office of Education to define thresholds for each of these.”

This is not Anderegg’s first attempt to pass legislation addressing student privacy. He ran a similar bill last year, but it died in the House amid concerns that the proposed restrictions went too far.

Anderegg has spent the past year working with stakeholders to come up with a doable bill. “I believe, with all the consensus meetings we’ve had, they’ve walked away feeling like these were actually very positive moves. Things that would really, really help across the board, not just at the State Office of Education but as it trickles down through the districts and to the schools. How this data is to be collected, how the information then is going to be managed and secured, and then how the information is to be accessed and shared,” said Anderegg.

Tami Pyfer, education advisor to Governor Gary Herbert, believes the legislation strikes a good compromose. “There’s these competing interests of protecting student data and yet making sure that we’re spending taxpayer dollars in a very appropriate fashion and making sure that we are serving the students to the best of our ability. Those competing interests were difficult to work through at first, but we’ve had several meetings and I feel comfortable with where we are.”

Judy Park, associate superintendent of the Utah State Office of Education, emphasized the importance of protecting student data. “Protecting the privacy and security of student data is essential.”

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