June 1, 2004

Privacy wins in Virginia

Last fall, HSLDA began a campaign to convince school systems to stop asking for social security numbers on their notice of intent forms. We obtained copies of notice of intent forms, and wrote letters to those school systems whose forms asked for social security numbers. We explained to them that their request violated the Privacy Act of 1974. This federal law prohibits a government agency from requesting a social security number unless it is specifically required under law, or unless it is clearly listed as optional.

Some school systems responded immediately and cleaned up their forms. Others dragged their feet. We sent follow-up letters to the laggards. As the school year comes to a close, nearly every school system has come into compliance with this federal law, either by totally removing the request for the social security number or by indicating that it is optional.

Identity theft is growing dramatically. Your social security number may be the key for an unscrupulous person to get into your bank account or into your medical records. It is private, it is precious, and it warrants scrupulous protection.

Families are not required to use the forms created by school systems; nonetheless, the forms must comply with the law. If you encounter any form that asks for your social security number, and it indicates it is optional, we recommend that you not divulge it.