The state Education Department has produced a last-minute "parents' bill of rights" on the use and security of student data – hours before a legally imposed deadline to do so.
Ken Wagner, deputy education commissioner, sent an email to superintendents and other education officials on Tuesday evening alerting them that a bill of rights had been posted online.
The Journal News reported last week that the department was unlikely to meet its July 29 deadline, set by lawmakers in the state budget. A department spokesman said a chief privacy officer would have to hired before a bill of rights would be created.
The Journal News report also said that school districts were concerned that they might be required by state law to post a bill of rights in September – and could be forced to write their own if the state did not provide one.
"It's awkward for districts to not know what to do," Jay Worona, general counsel for the New York State School Boards Association, told The Journal News.
Wagner's email on Tuesday noted that state law now requires school districts to post a parents' bill of rights on their websites and to include it with every contract that a district enters into with a vendor that receives student data.
"We are complying with the law," Education Department spokesman Tom Dunn said Wednesday morning.
The law also says that the education comissioner must set a period for parents and others to submit comments and suggestions to the chief privacy officer for possible inclusion in the bill of rights.
An Education Department spokesman said last week that a search had not yet begun for a chief privacy officer. The department was still working with the state Department of Civil Service to create the position, he said.
The 11-page "Parents' Bill of Rights for Data Privacy and Security" explains that state law now provides "important new protections for student data, and new remedies for breaches of the responsibility to maintain the security and confidentiality of such data."
The bill of rights describes parents' rights on the federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act and under state law.
Lawmakers required the bill of rights, the appointment of a chief privacy officer and other changes to protect student data after there was a statewide backlash against the Education Department's plans to share identifiable student data with the private inBloom data cloud. The law forced New York to pull out of the inBloom project, which closed shortly thereafter.
Finding new ways to use student data is one of New York's obligations under the federal Race to the Top program, along with the implementation of the Common Core learning standards and a new teacher evaluation system.
The bill of rights is posted here: http://www.p12.nysed.gov/docs/parents-bill-of-rights.pdf