February 1, 2023
- Soon-to-be reintroduced federal parent rights bill may allow parents to opt out of most EdTech.
- Child privacy bills crafted without education input continue to risk banning school technology use – as was the case with the almost-passed COPPA 2.0 and Kids Online Safety Act in December.
Just in case that wasn’t enough, President Biden published an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, noting that “Congress can find common ground on the protection of privacy, competition and American children.” He called on Congress to pass legislation that would “hold Big Tech accountable” and to tighten pre-existing legislation, which may–unintentionally–further restrict how schools can use EdTech with students.
1. Parent Rights Bill Threatening Technology Use in K-12 Classrooms
Parents are demanding more say over school curriculum, and the incoming Republican majority of the Ed Committee say it is a top priority. The Parents Bill of Rights Act (PBOR), which will be reintroduced very soon, does exactly that- and more.
PBOR amends FERPA in a way that limits technology use in schools by taking away schools’ ability to consent to using student data on behalf of parents– an issue that education stakeholders have flagged before.
- Students may lose access to educational software and apps if parents opt out.
- Teachers will likely have to choose between creating and implementing multiple lesson plans for the same classroom–to accommodate students whose parents let them use EdTech and students whose parents have opted out–or not using technology at all with their students.
In addition to the unintended consequences above, a lot of PBOR simply reiterates existing law–like PPRA’s provision that allows parents to review instructional materials and its requirement of parental consultation–so the bill may create confusing, duplicative, onerous responsibilities for schools.
2. Child Privacy Bills Impacting Education Without Sufficient School Input
Two federal child privacy bills with substantial bipartisan support - the Children and Teens’ Privacy Protection Act of 2022 (COPPA 2.0) and the Kids Online Safety Act (KOSA) - came very close to being included in the omnibus spending package that was passed before the holidays. Both COPPA 2.0 and KOSA aimed to increase privacy protections for children online, but unfortunately did not account for the fact that children spend the majority of their waking hours at school.
Any child privacy proposal must be built with the input from education stakeholders to ensure that the proposal does not accidentally disadvantage the children it seeks to protect. In particular, there were concerns that COPPA 2.0 might unintentionally restrict schools from being able to use most technologies, and KOSA might conflict with existing legal obligations under the Children’s Internet Protection Act, endangering schools’ eligibility for e-rate funding.
Education groups discovered that the bills gained last-minute momentum before the holiday, and were able to raise their concerns. The omnibus spending package that passed out of Congress on December 23rd did not include COPPA 2.0 or KOSA.
But be prepared: COPPA 2.0 and KOSA will be re-introduced in 2023 (probably soon in the wake of President Biden’s op-ed). It will be important for the education community to weigh in on how these bills impact them.