FERPA requirements and online educational content and management services

Tech using educators are probably familiar with FERPA. This legal position requires that schools (through secondary) protect student data from outside sources. My experience with FERPA also stipulates that as a college professor I not release data on adult students to their parents without student approval.

FERPA has come again as applied to online instructional and management systems. According to the terms of services of at least one such system, the system:

by posting or submitting Member Content to this Site, you grant K12 and its affiliates and licensees the right to use, reproduce, display, perform, adapt, modify, distribute, have distributed, and promote the content in any form, anywhere and for any purpose.

The article I reference above stated that:

“Member content” was defined as information the child posted on certain areas of the site, registration data, and other forms of student personally identifiable information (PII).

Some parents objected and the school (a private institution) argued that the parents had options allowing the school to use the service.

At the time the school was found to be using acceptable practices at the time, but now has been warned that higher standards are in place.

This has interesting implications for companies wanting to provide such services.

I wonder about this situation. I know that many have objected to the wording of the TOS of other online companies believing that the companies had the right to use their content (e.g., images). My recollection of such situations was that the companies had no such intentions, but inserted language in the TOS as a legal protection. I wonder if this is a similar situation.

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