Coalition Calls on Congress to Rewrite FERPA

Photo credit: Rob Crawley (CC-By-2.0)

On Tuesday, American Principles Project and individuals from more than 100 organizations including Education Liberty Watch and Eagle Forum called on Congress to rewrite the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). In a letter to the House Education and Workforce Committee, they implored Congress to recognize that citizens have a property interest in their personal data and that Congress should protect that interest.

“Personal data collection without consent is an affront to freedom,” said Emmett McGroarty, senior fellow at American Principles Project and co-author of the new book, Deconstructing the Administrative State: The Fight for Liberty. “The federal government has no right or authority to vacuum up mountains of personal data on its citizens without their consent, with only the vague intent to “help” them or others make decisions. This is especially true for children.”

The APP-led coaltion submitted five recommendations for the FERPA rewrite:

  1. Do whatever is possible to decrease the amount of data collected on students, especially social-emotional learning (SEL) data. Collection of such data should be eliminated or at the very least a) not collected without informed opt-in parental consent and b) be treated as medical data.

  2. Treat whatever mental health, social emotional, or behavioral data collected for special-education evaluations or any other related program, such as Positive Behavioral Intervention and Supports (PBIS) or Multi-Tiered Systems of Support (MTSS), as medical data that cannot be housed in longitudinal databases.

  3. Use aggregate rather than individual data to the greatest extent possible.

  4. Obtain parental consent if data collected for one purpose is to be repurposed or shared with another federal agency.

  5. Eliminate the current language in FERPA allowing predictive testing.

Read the letter below:

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Disclosure: Our editor, Shane Vander Hart, is a signatory of this letter.