Washington State, Student Data Privacy, New Amendments
Washington State’s Student Online Personal Information Protection Act, also known as SB 5419 / HB 1495, is a student data protection and privacy law that was amended in 2015. Washington State’s SB 5419 / HB 1495 was enacted to provide K-12 students within the state with protection as it relates to the personal information they provide to school officials and service providers in the context of pursuing their various educational goals. With this being said, the law places several responsibilities on school officials and service providers that operate within Washington State as it pertains to upholding the personal privacy of the students they serve.
How are school services defined under the law?
Under Washington State’s SB 5419 / HB 1495, a school service is defined as “a website, mobile application, or online service that: (a) Is designed and marketed primarily for use in a K-12 school; (b) is used at the direction of teachers or other employees of a K-12 school; and (c) collects, maintains, or uses student personal information. A “school service” does not include a website, mobile application, or online service that is designed and marketed for use by individuals or entities generally, even if also marketed to a United States K-12 school.” Alternatively, the law defines a school service provider as “an entity that operates a school service to the extent it is operating in that capacity.”
What are the duties of school service providers under the law?
Under Washington State’s Student Online Personal Information Protection Act, the responsibilities and obligations that school service providers have in regard to protecting the personal privacy of students include but are not limited to:
- School service providers are responsible for being transparent about any information they collect from students, including providing both students and parents with clear and concise information concerning the categories of personal information that will be collected, as well as the intended use for such information.
- School service providers are required to provide students and parents with the means to correct a student’s information if it has been found to be incomplete or inaccurate.
- School service providers are only permitted to collect, use, or share personal information pertaining to students in accordance with the consent of said students, or their parents or guardians.
- School service providers are prohibited from selling the personal information of students, unless such sale is in relation to a corporate merger or other related transaction or acquisition.
- School service providers are prohibited from using personal information obtained from students for the purpose of engaging in targeted advertising.
What data elements are protected under the law?
Under Washington State’s SB 5419 / HB 1495, the following categories of personal information pertaining to students are legally protected from unauthorized use, access, and disclosure:
- First and last names.
- Dates of birth.
- Email addresses.
- Physical addresses.
- Telephone numbers.
- Student enrollment information.
- State test scores and alternative assessments.
- Student Growth Percentiles or SPGs.
- Disciplinary actions.
- Grades and grade point averages.
- Information about absences.
- Medical information and records.
- Special education data.
Maintain compliance with the law
When looking to fulfill their respective job functions, educators and school service providers will need to disclose the personal information of their students under certain circumstances, such as providing said students with information about post-secondary educational opportunities. As such, when looking to maintain compliance with legislation such as Washington State’s, automatic redaction software can be used to obfuscate any personal information that is not pertinent to students furthering their education. In this way, educators and school service providers within Washington can effectively serve the needs of their students while also maintaining compliance with all applicable legislation.
As student data privacy legislation has gained significant attention and traction around the U.S. in recent years, with 182 student data privacy laws being passed across 46 states in the year 2015 alone, the enactment of Washington State’s SB 5419 / HB 1495 is representative of a larger trend that has been sweeping the nation. While the U.S. does not have a strong track record of providing comprehensive data protection to citizens through federal legislation, many states around the country have taken steps legal steps to protect the personal information and privacy of their respective citizens. As such, the provisions of SB 5419 / HB 1495 provide privacy protections for students within Washington State.