Governor signs student data privacy bill

John Schroder
John Schroder

In an attempt to outwit identify thieves and to soothe some parents’ concerns, public school students in Louisiana soon will get unique identification numbers to replace the Social Security numbers that currently go on their academic files.

Gov. Bobby Jindal announced signing House Bill 1076 Tuesday. The bill was drawn into the debate over the controversial Common Core standards during the legislative session. The fear was the information forms accompanying Common Core tests would be vulnerable for student data breaches.

Jindal now has signed all legislation from this year’s legislative session.

“I am proud to sign HB1076 into law, which will ensure student personal information is protected. Our children and parents should not have to fear the exposure of private, personal information when they enroll in school, and this bill helps prevent abuses,” the governor said in a prepared statement released shortly before he left for out-of-state engagements. The governor traveled to St. Louis, Missouri, and Atlanta for meetings concerning America Next, his national nonprofit think tank. He also delivered a speech at the Missouri Republican Party Spirit of Reagan Award reception.

Schools and school districts have long collected information about students, including Social Security numbers, ethnicity, date of birth, family income indicators, medical issues, attendance and other information. Public colleges once used Social Security numbers as students’ identification numbers, requiring them for checking out library books and registering for classes. Amid identity theft concerns, colleges started switching to unique identification numbers.

In Louisiana, state Superintendent of Education John White and others touted data sharing as a way to help teachers develop a more personalized teaching focus. Concerns by parents about where the data could end up helped cancel the state’s contract with a database group called inBloom, which is supported in part by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

HB1076 prohibits local public schools from requiring the collection of certain student data without parents’ permission. By May 1, 2015, the state must develop a system for unique student identification numbers. Every student in the public school system will get a number by June 1, 2015.

State Rep. John Schroder, R-Covington, said a $1 million grant will help cover the costs. Schroder sponsored the bill.

“This protects the private data of children in public schools across Louisiana. It makes the Department of Education create student ID numbers. They will no longer use Social Security numbers,” he said.

Schroder said he filed the bill because parents were concerned about their children’s personal information falling victim to a security breach.

Dr. Anna Arthurs, a Thibodaux mother, said the bill is about an individual’s right to keeping data private.

“It’s not just to say no one can have the data. It gives parents the right to choose whether they want to share their children’s private data,” she said.

Jindal also signed legislation abolishing seven state boards and commissions. House Bill 1013 was part of the governor’s legislative package.

“I am proud to sign HB1013 into law, which reduces the size and scope of government and makes it work more efficiently for our people,” Jindal said in a prepared statement.

The bill abolishes:

Atchafalaya Trace Heritage Area Development Zone Review Board

Broadband Advisory Council

Catfish Promotion and Research Program and Board

Coastal Land Stewardship Authority Board of Directors

Mississippi River Road Commission

Systemic Initiatives Program Council

Tri-State Corridor Commission

Follow Michelle Millhollon on Twitter, @mmillhollon. For more coverage of Louisiana government and politics, follow our Politics Blog at http://blogs.theadvocate.com/politicsblog.