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Assembly Committee Passes Student Privacy Reforms in Aftermath of Morgan Hill Ruling

April 18, 2016

Legislation to institute new student privacy protections ensuring that students’ personal information like Social Security Numbers are appropriately protected at the school district level passed the Assembly Education Committee on April 13 on a unanimous 7-0 vote. The bill was authored by California State Assemblymembers Melissa Melendez (R-Lake Elsinore), Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego) and Mike Gatto (D-Los Angeles).

A recent ruling in Morgan Hill Concerned Parents Association, et al. v. California Department of Education compelled the school system to provide sensitive information – including social security numbers, mental health and medical information – for students dating back to 2008 to a parents group in Santa Clara County. Assembly Bill 2097 would prohibit school districts from gathering social security numbers and other sensitive unnecessary information for students except where required by federal law.

“As a mother, I don’t want my children’s personal information to be needlessly exposed, and this simple legislation will help clarify rules and keep schools out of the business of asking for this private data in the first place,” Gonzalez said.

“Identity thieves don’t discriminate when it comes to age. I was appalled when I read about the court order to allow the release of millions of children’s personal information, including my own, to a third party,” Melendez said. “Our children are the most vulnerable among us and it is vital we do everything in our power to protect them. With this legislation, never again shall such a reckless and foolish situation endanger our kids.”

When announcing the bill in February, the authors of AB 2097 also called on California school districts to proactively provide parents with the California Department of Education’s objection form to lodge their opposition to this exposure of personal and private information about their children across the state. Following widespread public outcry, the judge in the case modified an order to reduce the exposure of sensitive student information. However, absent explicit protections that block third parties from receiving private information, the issue remains discretionary on a case-by-case basis.

Source:  Office of Assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez

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