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Education & Labor Committee Republicans

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New Allegations of Politically Motivated Firing Add to Concerns About Student Privacy

Responding to new allegations that a leading official at the U.S. Department of Education was fired for raising concerns about proposals that could compromise student privacy, Rep. John Kline (R-MN) today spoke out about the importance of federal education privacy protection laws and highlighted a recent report calling into question data collection initiatives that could compromise students’ personal information.

“The allegation that the U.S. Department of Education is making an end run around student privacy laws is a serious charge, and one that Congress must investigate immediately,” said Kline, the top Republican on the U.S. House Education and Labor Committee. “Congress deliberately prohibited the use of a so-called ‘unit record’ system for tracking students because of concerns that our children’s information could be compromised now or in the future.”

Inside Higher Ed reported today, “The U.S. Education Department has fired the top federal official charged with protecting student privacy, in what the dismissed official says was a conflict with the agency's political leaders over their zeal to encourage the collection of data about students' academic performance.”

Today’s allegation is not the first time concerns have been raised about student privacy at a time when the Obama Administration is encouraging significant increases in data collection.

“States often collect far more information about students than necessary and fail to take adequate steps to protect their privacy, a national study concludes. The dossiers go far beyond test scores, including Social Security numbers, poverty data, health information and disciplinary incidents,” the Washington Post reported in October. The article cites a study from the Fordham University Center on Law and Information Policy that examined state data collection systems and compliance with federal privacy laws.

“Federal education privacy laws exist to ensure personal information about our nation’s children does not fall into the wrong hands,” said Kline. “As Congress and the Administration begin looking toward a renewal of federal education laws, we must remain mindful of our obligation to protect students. The safety and security of student information is yet another reason we must be wary of new federal intrusion into our schools.”

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