The Delaware Senate passed a bill dealing with the Freedom of Information Act on Wednesday but placed an amendment on the bill. The amendment on Senate Bill 258 removes the terms “data dictionaries” and “file layouts”. By including those terms in the potential law, it would essentially prevent parents from finding out what type of student information is going to outside companies from the Delaware Department of Education. I wrote about this bill on May 19th in a very long article about student data privacy and technology in our schools. I emailed the entire Senate at the same time. As a result of my efforts, an amendment was attached to the bill removing the term “data dictionaries” and “file layouts”.
Sources informed me the state was receiving an abnormal amount of requests about the state IT infrastructure which caused much concern. While it is not unusual to receive these requests, one source who requested anonymity stated, “It was an excessive amount of requests within a short period of time. Red flags went up!”
By preventing parents from being able to find out this kind of information regarding student data, the bill could have violated the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). As part of FERPA, parents do have certain rights in asking for information about what records are released about their child. I am glad the Delaware Senate Executive Committee took this step and listened to my concern. I’m not sure if others expressed the same concern, but if they did, thank you! A special thank you to the sponsor of this legislation, State Senator Brian Bushweller, who immediately responded to my thoughts on the matter and took action.
Google describes data dictionaries as the following:
a set of information describing the contents, format, and structure of a database and the relationship between its elements, used to control access to and manipulation of the database.