DOE Issues Model Terms of Service for Online Student Data Privacy

As part of an increasing push for schools to negotiate written agreements with “cloud” providers, the DOE recently issued a new guidance document regarding the protection of student data while using online educational services.

The guidelines, Protecting Student Privacy While Using Online Educational Services: Model Terms of Service (http://ptac.ed.gov/sites/default/files/TOS_Guidance_Jan%202015_0.pdf), provide model contractual terms that schools can and should use with online educational providers.

An office of the DOE called the Privacy Technical Assistance Center (“PTAC”) and the National School Board Association’s Council of School Attorneys have focused on student data privacy issues in the last few years, and the PTAC offers a number of resources on the subject. Most notable is a 2014 guidance from the PTAC, Protecting Student Privacy While Using Online Educational Services: Requirements and Best Practices. The recently issued Model Terms of Service document furthers the 2014 guidance by offering more specific contract provisions and rationales for each.

As schools move to more online educational options, from Google Apps to Edmodo to Infinite Campus and more, the issue of student privacy and data is garnering greater attention and warrants the attention of school districts. Often, districts—or even just individual teachers—sign up for online services through which student data is disclosed. And often this is accomplished through “Click-Wrap” agreements, where the administrators or teachers simply click a button to accept the Terms of Service for a particular “cloud” service.

The better alternative is to negotiate a written agreement with the provider, and the PTAC’s Model Terms of Service document is a helpful starting point.

To discuss your particular “cloud” provider agreements and related issues, contact James Levi or Jeff Goelitz.

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