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House File 168: Protecting Privacy of Homeschool Data
Representative Barb Sykora (R), District 33B.
A companion bill to Senate File 99, House File 168 would solve Minnesota's data privacy problem by specifically stating that "data collected by a public school on a child that must be reported pursuant to Section 120A.24 is private data." "Private data" should be contrasted with "directory information" or "public data," which under Minnesota's Sunshine Law must be released upon request.
House File 168 was introduced to the House on January 23, 2003, and referred to the Education Policy Committee, which recommended passage. It was also sent to the Committee on Civil Law. Although HF 168 did not progress any further itself, HSLDA is happy to report that the necessary privacy language from this bill has passed both houses as part of SF 10, one of the first bills of the 2003 1st special session.
Most Minnesota homeschoolers are aware of the privacy concerns that surfaced after the Department of Administration released Minnesota Advisory Opinion 00-052. It states homeschooled children are not "students," whose privacy falls under state and federal law. This means that a school district that released homeschool information "did not properly disseminate private educational data about" the homeschool student.
The new legislation would solve this problem by specifically stating that "data collected by a public school on a child that must be reported pursuant to Section 120A.24 is private data." "Private data" should be contrasted with "public data," which under Minnesota's Sunshine Law must be released upon request. In particular, homeschool information shall not be designated "directory information," which may be released to the public. "Directory information" typically includes name and address information for children enrolled in the public schools. It is often used by reporters for stories on student athletes, award winners, and so forth. The information is also used by the United States military for recruiting purposes, pursuant to federal law. Directory information is also available to direct mail marketers, and is one source of junk mail.
Under the new privacy bill, the information that homeschoolers and other private school families submit by October 1st each year is "private data," which shall not be designated "directory information" without prior written consent by the parents. The only exceptions to this privacy protection occur when data is released pursuant to a valid court order, a statute that specifically authorizes access to private data, or for bona fide public health concerns. (Since homeschooled students do not generally attend public educational agencies or institutions, this latter exception will rarely be invoked.)
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