Safeguarding student data is a primary responsibility for today’s school districts. Just one moment’s lapse in data security can result in a host of serious consequences for students: compromised safety, stolen identity, a ruined credit score, and more.
Because data breaches can have costly impacts for students well into adulthood, many states are supplementing the national Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) with robust local privacy laws. Bloomington Public Schools (BPS), a district serving approximately 6,000 students in rural Illinois, is integrating data analytics tools to help meet the standards of Illinois’s new Student Online Personal Protection Act (SOPPA).
Achieving SOPPA compliance
As Jim Peterson, Technology Director for BPS, explains below, the district uses CatchOn® [Lightspeed Analytics], an expansive data analytics tool, to ensure his students’ safety and to promote effective instruction. He is now leveraging the system to prepare his district for full SOPPA-compliance in these three ways.
Data Security Tip 1:
Find out what apps your district is actually using
When districts deploy Lightspeed Analytics, administrators are immediately surprised to see the vast amount and types of apps being used: unapproved or unknown apps used widely, expensive apps going neglected, and effective apps used sparingly.
Data Security Tip 2:
Use Lightspeed Analytics to foster a security dialogue with teachers
Mr. Peterson has found that much of Bloomington’s app sprawl has resulted from his teachers’ eagerness to get new, effective apps to students. In order to foster this practice without jeopardizing student data security, Mr. Peterson created a forum where teachers could submit apps they would like to use. “We have to get teachers what they want when they want it, but we also have to protect our kids,” he said. Thanks to this process, BPS has not only been able to protect its students, but also to disseminate the most effective apps district-wide.
Recently, Mr. Peterson has improved this dialogue with teachers by using Lightspeed Analytics. Because the forum is now linked to the analytics tool, teachers can see what apps the district has already approved for use when they nominate a new one for approval. “CatchOn [Lightspeed Analytics] doesn’t just share all the apps approved in our district,” explained Mr. Peterson.
Data Security Tip 3:
Include other stakeholders in your security dialogue
As districts nationwide are navigating security challenges, they’re finding ways of helping each other do so successfully. Mr. Peterson has been using Lightspeed Analytics to expedite BPS’s process of evaluating new apps. “CatchOn [Lightspeed Analytics] lets us see what other apps districts are tracking and which ones they have approved,” he said. “Plus, the system includes each app’s licensing agreement, which makes it easier to monitor those kinds of things.”
Mr. Peterson and his team also use Lightspeed Analytics to communicate critical data privacy information to parents. The tool simplifies compliance with new legislation requiring disclosure of all data policies and breaches: districts simply need to upload to Lightspeed’s platform a document detailing the breach and send out a notification to parents. In this way, Lightspeed empowers Bloomington to promote student success without putting critical data at risk.
Whatever your district’s current regulatory landscape, following these three simple steps can help you protect students while boosting education results.
About Lightspeed Systems
Lightspeed Systems, headquartered in Austin, Texas, is a leading online safety and effectiveness platform for K–12 schools. A proven partner for student safety and engagement, Lightspeed uses advanced AI to view and analyze student activity across the web. Lightspeed serves over 20 million students in 38 countries and 28,000 schools globally.