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Minnesota Legislation Would Protect Homeschool Privacy
Last year Home School Legal Defense Association discovered that the Minnesota Department of Administration had classified homeschool records as "public data." And as such they must be released to anyone upon request. Now, several friendly legislators have introduced House File 168 and Senate File 99, which are intended to protect the privacy of homeschool and private school students. We urge your strong support for this legislation.
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 is protected 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 last exception will rarely be invoked.)
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