Editorial: School should better share students’ privacy rights

With $30 any third party can access students’ directory information, which includes street address and email. (Cartoon by Jack Killeen).
With $30 any third party can access students’ directory information, which includes street address and email. (Cartoon by Jack Killeen)

For only $30 any third party can get any students’ directory information and do anything with it. The ECHO would like students to learn their privacy rights.

The district is required by law to distribute the following student information to any third party: parent name, address and telephone number; student name, birth-date, address and telephone number; school attended; student’s photograph in yearbooks; student’s extracurricular participation; student’s achievement awards or honors; student’s weight and height if members of athletic team.

When told about the sharing of his information, junior Cross Vitale said, “Wow, I didn’t know that.” Obviously the school is failing to inform its students.

“That’s just violation of privacy, and the information could get out to the wrong hands. That could lead to dangerous encounters or altercations. Like maybe the K.K.K. (Ku Klux Klan) will come after me,” junior Nathan Weiskopf said.

In one year the school gets under 10 requests, according to Chief Communications Officer Cathy Vespereny, so realistically students aren’t in danger of being hunted down by the K.K.K. In the past year, the only third parties to request for directory information have been Fortnightly, Yucando Art Studio and DeMolay.

The ECHO feels the school should be able to distribute students’ information, but it also needs to raise student awareness of privacy rights.

Information about students’ privacy rights can be found on the back page of Webster’s annual school newsletter. The school mails this newsletter out to every household and business in Webster, but one document once a year isn’t enough to inform students about their privacy rights.

Vitale learned for the first time that the district hands out his directory information, and he said, “I think they should tell us. They should inform students when their information is being handed out. Maybe they give a page of our rights out during class, and the teacher reads it.”

Vitale poses a good idea. If the district took only 15 minutes out of the whole school year to have every teacher read students their privacy rights, students would be well aware of what happens to their directory information. At the least the district should put an online version of students’ privacy rights on the school website.

If students would like to keep their directory information private, they can write a letter to the district requesting to “opt out.”

Vespereny said, “We will try to publicize this more.”


See also “Organizations may request student information.”

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