Student GPS Tracking: Security And Legal Issues Schools Need To Know
published on March 03, 2015 by Sonia Mastros
When it comes to student GPS tracking, data security, privacy rights and other legal issues are a big concern for some parents and school district members. It’s not uncommon for district members to be concerned with the safety and effectiveness of student tracking, while parents may have conscientious or religious objections.
While you may be won over by the many benefits of student GPS tracking, the security and legal concerns must be addressed. Below is a breakdown of some of these issues and how to best handle them when implementing a student tracking system in your schools:
Student GPS Tracking Privacy And Data Security Concerns
From a data security standpoint, it’s important to understand the technology behind student GPS tracking, such as RFID tags and scanners.
Especially if the student GPS tracking system provider is hosting the data, you need to ensure that access is limited to only the appropriate parties. Any student tracking system proposed for your school district should undergo a formal safety, technology and privacy impact assessment.
Your student GPS tracking system should account for:
- Software that is encrypted and password protected
- Limited access on a need-to-know basis (e.g. salespeople don’t have access)
- Your school district’s own private database, with nothing shared amongst different school districts
- RFID tags that aren’t hackable, containing just the assigned numbers with no student information attached to the actual cards
The privacy and data security concerns of a student GPS tracking system are the same as any other encrypted and password protected software that we rely on daily. However, to bring about a level of comfort with implementing the system in your school district, it’s important to provide total transparency about RFID tags and scanners – they should be clearly identified and their uses explained.
Even with stringent limited-access practices, concerned parties also feel better if they know the consequences of someone gaining unauthorized access to the student tracking software database.
When school districts are clear about the intended uses of the data collected from a student tracking system, this goes a long way in putting people’s minds at ease.
As far as actual data security laws go, both HIPAA and FERPA have data protection laws that schools must abide by – such as medical information that cannot be released publically – and these laws apply to student GPS tracking.
The Legal Concerns Of Student GPS Tracking
Regardless of how beneficial student GPS tracking is for both the school district and parents, some families are never going to accept it, especially if it violates certain religious beliefs.
Are children of those families able to opt out?
While the attempted mandates of having to use a student GPS tracking system are happening state-by-state at the moment, parents who want to opt out, at the very least, must explain why.
As far as children’s individualized legal rights, there is nothing specific to GPS and children that has been legislated. And, because the child is not considered an adult until 21 years old, the law generally extends parents the legal right to extensive control over their children, and this includes student GPS tracking.
Children’s rights are simply not equal to adults’ constitutional rights because children are more vulnerable and unable to make informed, critical decisions.
The important thing to note about the umbrella of student tracking “conscientious concerns” is that some parents are quite skeptical of improved truancy as a standalone benefit. Using student GPS tracking only as a means to improve attendance has undertones of criminalizing students at an early stage of their lives.
Implementing a student GPS tracking system in your school should focus on safety first. Although student tracking systems do aid in attendance issues, it’s important not to use the system simply to reprimand truant students.
As this technology continues to expand and grow in acceptance, it’s incredibly wise to highlight the benefits – for student safety and also your school’s ability to receive much-needed funding and state reimbursements that help finance educational programs.
Laws created to protect students’ privacy are lacking, simply because student GPS tracking is only now beginning to have prevalence in school districts across the country. That’s why it’s important to establish your own infrastructure of privacy policies that protect student data and remove the stigma of taking away a young person’s personal freedoms.