Is the Manteca Unified School District in the business of selling student information for profit?
District administrators say absolutely not – pointing to a handful of privacy laws that restrict where information, if any, can be shared with third-party entities including colleges and universities.
On Wednesday, a Facebook post in a local Manteca group generated controversy when it alleged that the personal information – including a Social Security number – of a high school senior was stolen from a computer database at a major West Coast University.
Getting a notice from that university worried the family, who claimed they were told that Manteca Unified sold the information to the school when they called to inquire.
According to district officials, that is not how the district operates.
“Manteca Unified School District does not sell student data information nor do we share personal information outside of our system unless legally required to do so by Federal or State law and/or with explicit parental permission,” the release stated. “As a district, we continue to be vigilant about protecting student data.
“Under FERPA (Family Educational Records Privacy Act), a school may not generally disclose personally identifiable information from a minor student’s education records to a third party unless the student’s parent has provided written consent.”
But there are cases, according to Manteca Unified Senior Director of Elementary Education Cheryl Meeker, where educational entities share certain bits of information for research purposes, although that information is never sold to the person receiving it.
Meeker is the administrator in charge of approving any of those studies.
“Our district is regularly involved in government or university research studies where specific data points are used, and even in those instances student identity is protected,” Meeker said. “However, this is not ever sold information. In other words, if the government is conducting a study related to health and wellness and requests survey information, that information is relayed and all student identities are still protected.”
In addition to FERPA, the Protection of Pupil Rights Act (PPRA) also governs how schools collect, maintain and use the personal information of students in order to maintain confidentiality. According to the district, “parents should feel confident that education information collected and stored by Manteca Unified School District is securely maintained and only used for educational purposes.”
And starting next year, Social Security numbers will no longer be a part of the information that the district stores within a specialized software database. According to the district’s release, the Information Technology Department does not require sites to enter Social Security numbers, although the information was previously required for submission of the Cal Grant application on behalf of graduation seniors with prior written permission.
When the school year starts in the fall, District spokesperson Victoria Brunn said, the field in the database that previously stored that specific information will not be available for input, and will not be collected by high school registrars.
To contact reporter Jason Campbell email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 209.249.3544.