Why is data protection becoming more important in private schools?
When schools think of staying ahead, staying agile, or differentiating themselves, technology is usually the obvious option for change and innovation. Delivering a 1:1 device ratio, or having high tech classrooms with interactive whiteboards, or even a robust parent to school communication app and fancy website, might be a few of the ways independent schools try to stand out to applicants.
They are not wrong, technology does make your school stand out. This is not about standing out in a way families or even students would see, but legally, staying in front of the rush to comply with the tightening privacy and security laws.
Before we discuss the benefits to independent schools of executing top notch security and privacy practices, let’s define what those practices are called.
What's the most comprehensive privacy law?
GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation), is a European privacy law, and is also the most comprehensive privacy law to date. GDPR states what companies can or can’t do with someone's information. There are many rules around taking information such as needing to have consent, the data has to be current, and at any time upon request by the person, they have the right to ask the company to delete their data.1
What about the most accountable security certification for schools?
The ISO27001 certification is the only security certification companies can receive where it’s auditable. This is not a mandatory certification, therefore, it means companies have chosen to put themselves through a rigorous set of best practices to protect the data they are collecting, as well as a detailed risk register and disaster recovery plan, backup policy, and document where all their data is being stored.2
In order to be truly ISO27001 certified, all aspects of the business have to follow these security best practices. This is where an all-in-one school management solution is really important, because it’s just one company, one database, and one ISO27001 certification. For example, if a school management company uses one module for school payments and that was an acquisition or merger…not from the original company, they need to make sure that the payments company is also ISO27001 certified as well…or the original company will now be out of compliance—and so will your student’s data!
Why is GDPR and ISO27001 compliance important for independent schools now?
Here are four reasons why these elevated levels of security and data privacy compliance will benefit your independent school.
If your school transacts in any way with European citizens in terms of taking their information, even if it’s someone going on your website and subscribing to an alumni newsletter, your school will need to follow the privacy laws of GDPR. If your school software already supports GDPR, your school won’t be limited by who you can advertise to, collect information from, and ultimately convert to applicant, student, and alumni. Being GDPR compliant will give your school a competitive advantage and not limit your applicant or donor pool.
Beat the Rush
Privacy laws in the U.S. are becoming more strict. Laws like the California Privacy Rights Act are adapting principles of the European GDPR compliance law. Other states to follow these rules include Colorado, Connecticut, Utah and Virginia.3 Just as there has been a scramble for schools to become ADA compliant with their websites, there is now a rush to be compliant with privacy laws, especially in the states listed above. If your school is already using privacy compliant school management software—great! If not, there will be a rush to convert to it. Which means time for migration, onboarding, training, etc.
Although being compliant with privacy laws is sometimes viewed as a major inconvenience, converting sooner rather than later to a compliant school management company will save time, and not be a stressful rush…we all know how well faculty, and parents deal with change!
Be the most secure
What’s the worst that could happen if your school has a data breach? Think of all the information that’s at risk.
- Student’s personal information (including social security numbers)
- Parent’s personal information (including tax information for financial aid)
- Alumni information
- Big gifts personal data such as Trust information
- Faculty personal information (including social security numbers)
Also, the reputation of your school and everything it’s built from current students, enthusiastic and engaged parents, and alumni will be at risk. It takes years to build trust and reputation.
The best school management systems are ISO27001 certified. Remember, acquiring this certification is not mandatory for business. It’s a certification process a business will do to show its clients they value data security. If your school is partnered with an ISO27001 certified school management company, it shows your school community you also value their data security.
Peace of mind for your school data
The ISO27001 certification is an annual certification. Each year as security measures change, the certified company must adapt as well. If you’re partnered with an ISO27001 certified company your school software will automatically be updated to reflect the latest security trends. (Assuming you don’t have to pay for the updates!) To stay GDPR compliant, the companies also have to continuously update to stay compliant with the latest privacy law amendments.
What does this mean for your school?
If you’re working with a company that is both GDPR compliant and ISO27001 certified, the software will not be stagnant and will be continuously updated and improved with the focus always on privacy and security. This means any U.S. laws are still a bit behind, and your software will always be ahead.
Working with a school management software company that already has these certifications in place?
Chances are they will also be FERPA (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act) and COPPA (Children's Online Privacy Protection Act) compliant. Why? If you’re already following the most strict privacy laws, it’s much easier for companies to be compliant with the rest. Your school can work on marketing, recruiting, fundraising, and of course educating—while your school management software stays on track with the less glamorous part of the business: security and privacy.
The privacy trend is following Europe’s GDPR law, and the security trend is always to not have a data breach. Playing catch-up in either of these would be an administrative nightmare. This isn’t a fun thing to worry about, which is why the best private school management software companies already incorporate GDPR compliance and are ISO27001 certified. Just ask in your next demo!
These laws are not going away, they are only getting more strict, and more states will follow each year. Don’t let data privacy or security be a tech issue that puts your school behind. Knowing your data is secure and in compliance will let you focus on the fun part of school tech…like interactive whiteboards, or even classroom VR.