Distance Learning Plan – Privacy and Information Sharing

Privacy and Information Sharing at CPA During Distance Learning


Choosing Distance Learning Platforms and Privacy


All software used to deliver distance learning content at CPA will be vetted by our technology department to ensure it meets the privacy standards required by FERPA (the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act), a federal law which protects the privacy of student educational data, and MGDPA (the Minnesota Government Data Practices Act), a state law which similarly protects educational data.


CPA’s technology department will make these decisions based on Minnesota Department of Education Guidelines for choosing an online platform.


The platforms generally used by CPA, Google Classroom and Seesaw both have Data Privacy Agreements in place with CPA as part of our use contract that comply with the requirements for educational data privacy and COPPA (the Children’s Online Privacy & Protection Act).


Many software companies at times offer free or extended feature software and services. As a school, CPA is very mindful of how these companies are using our data and how secure their systems are.


CPA has software use policies on our staff handbook which state that staff are not allowed to install software without approval from the tech department. This policy is to help ensure that our devices can support the software and services and also that the software and services meet required privacy policies and federal student privacy law.


Sharing student work in a Distance Learning Setting


Under FERPA (linked to above) schools can share student work in distance learning environments without parental consent if the school has a Data Privacy Agreement in place with the software company detailing the safe use of the data. All of our software platforms have these agreements in place with us, and in order to have such an agreement with CPA those vendors legally must follow the Children’s Online Privacy & Protection Act (linked to above). 


Copyright and Fair Use Concerns During Distance Learning 


In the US we have a set of laws around sharing copyrighted materials.  In 2002, the federal government enacted the Technology, Education and Copyright Harmonization Act.  This law gave non-profit educational institutions the rights to share certain copyrighted information in distance learning environments. 


The TEACH Act addresses the sharing of copyrighted information during distance learning. It allows for:


  1. The sharing of nondramatic literary or musical works;
  2. The sharing of dramatic works and audiovisual works, but only if  “reasonable and limited portions” of the work are used; 
  3. And displays of work comparable to the use typical in face-to-face classroom sessions.


Students and instructors can do all these things without seeking permission, without giving anyone payment, and without having to deal with the complications of fair use.


However, both TEACH and “The Classroom Use Exemption” of copyright law only allow live sharing or display in a classroom setting. An instructor may not distribute copies of copyrighted materials for students to keep.


The sharing or display or materials must be “made by, at the direction of, or under the actual supervision of an instructor as an integral part of a class session.” Either a teacher or a student may initiate the performance or display, but it must be a key part of the class. For example, a teacher could share a short video or a music clip with a class in a virtual classroom, or a student could even attach a short video or audio clip to a discussion board post in a virtual classroom setting.  However, a teacher cannot photocopy and distribute a copyrighted text.


Common Questions about Information Sharing during Distance Learning



  • Is it a FERPA or MGDPA violation if parents view or listen to real-time instruction of students in my class?



No. Neither federal nor state law prohibit a parent from accessing a classroom to observe their child because this information is not considered an education record or educational data. Therefore, parents may similarly observe a classroom setting that is occurring via distance learning. 



  • Are the data privacy requirements different for students with IEPs or special needs? What additional steps should be taken for these students?


Yes, in the case of online virtual special education the District must protect the rights of the students per FERPA. Special education teachers are required to have special permission from the parent prior to arranging any learning session where there would be more than one student present. 

Community of Peace Academy will use the Prior Written Notice process to notify parents of students with special needs prior to arranging any sessions that have more than one student present for a special education session. During the Distance Learning period parents may respond to the Prior Written Notice via an email message, either giving consent or asking that their student not be present on video calls with other students. Community of Peace is committed to respecting the privacy rights of our children being served through Individualized Education Plans. 



  • Can student work be shared by teachers or by themselves through a Distance Learning Platform?



FERPA maintains exceptions that allow schools to share data in distance learning environments without parental consent if there are Data Privacy Agreements in place with the vendor detailing the use of the data. Those vendors must follow the Children’s Online Privacy & Protection Act, linked to above. 



  • Can distance learning lessons be recorded for students to access them later?



Some teachers may require recording so students with limited access to the internet or technology may access them at a later time. School districts have the authority to allow such recordings, but there are expectations.  While real-time video of a class is not subject to FERPA or MGDPA, video or audio recordings may be considered private education records/educational data if they are “directly related to a student.”  This means that if they are focused on one particular student giving a presentation, for instance.  If such a video is shared through a distance learning platform the teacher must first get permission of the student’s guardian(s).



  • Can videos of CPA classes be shared on the internet or social media, or being seen by people who are not CPA staff, students or their guardians?



CPA prohibits the unauthorized recording and/or dissemination of videos, images, or other data captured in the course of distance learning. 


The content of our classes is for educational purposes only.  By accessing CPA’s classes students are agreeing not to share the content of the virtual classroom with anyone not enrolled in the class or assisting an enrolled student. Unauthorized distribution of any distance learning content, including sharing video recordings or screenshots on the internet or social media could result in disciplinary action and/or the suspension of a student’s access to certain distance learning materials. 



  • What should I do if I learn that CPA’s lessons or images of CPA students or their work are being shared on the internet in violation of the above statement?



If possible, take screenshots or document the unauthorized sharing of this content as soon as possible and provide it to CPA administration.  Also you may contact the company where the content has been shared. Social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram all have ways of reporting inappropriate or abusive content so that it can be investigated and removed. 



  • What should I do if I accidentally shared data or content from a CPA class with someone who should not have received it?



Given that distance learning and the associated technology is new for many, the possibility of accidentally sharing the wrong data or content with someone is certainly understandable, although to be avoided at all costs. 


Please be sure before sending any materials digitally that you are sure that you are sending what you intend to send (the right document and/or content), that you are sending to the person you intend to receive the information, and that the intended recipient is authorized to receive the information.  This all is doubly true for CPA staff.


If you have accidentally shared something you did not intend to promptly attempt to recall the message or send a follow-up message asking the recipients to please disregard and delete. Next, let CPA administration know of the mistake. Being forthright and proactive is always the best idea in situations such as these.