Bill is Designed to Protect Student Privacy after Pennsylvania Incidents
Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Annette Quijano and Ruben Ramos, Jr. to protect student privacy by increasing awareness of technology that can record and monitor activities was released Thursday by an Assembly panel.
The bill was inspired, in part, by incidents at the Lower Merion School District in Pennsylvania in which cameras in laptops furnished by the school district recorded activity by students without the students realizing that the activity was being recorded. Images from the camera were transmitted to administrators of the school district.
“We cannot stop the march of technology that, while helpful and innovative, also unfortunately can prove invasive to our private lives,” said Quijano (D-Union). “Children are especially vulnerable to not understanding the danger of technology invading their privacy. With this law, we will make clear to everyone that it’s a possibility.”
Known as the Anti-Big Brother Act (A-2932), the bill would require a school district or charter school furnishing a student with a laptop computer, cellular telephone or other electronic device to provide the student with written notice that it may record or collect information on the student’s activity, if the device is equipped with a camera, global positioning system or other similar feature. The school district must also make it clear that they will not invade a student’s privacy with the device.
The notice would also include a form to be signed by the student’s parent or guardian and returned to the school district acknowledging receipt of the form, which shall be retained by the school district. An employer or a school district failing to provide the written notification required by this bill would be subject to a fine of $250 per incident, per child, which will be deposited in a fund to provide laptops to disadvantaged students.
“As a teacher, and one that grew up at a time when none of these advancements were at our fingertips, I know first-hand how helpful technology can be to students,” said Ramos (D-Hudson). “However, we also need to walk a fine line when it comes to invasion of privacy that can lead to confusion and embarrassment. This bill will help protect everyone’s rights.”
The provisions of the bill would go into effect on the next July 1 following enactment. The bill was approved 6-2 by the Assembly Education Committee and now awaits consideration by the full Assembly.