A school confidentiality policy is a written document that outlines a school’s plan to protect student information. Furthermore, these documents attempt to define boundaries that identify what type of information can be shared and what types of individuals are authorized to view it. Schools put these documents in place to help ensure that teachers, administrative staff, and all other faculty understand their responsibilities. Having this policy in place may also help schools become better prepared and better capable of meeting legal and professional standards that may apply.
Part of keeping student data confidential is defining who sees these records and under what circumstances. As part of their daily jobs, administrative staff will likely need to create and maintain personal records for each student. These individuals will typically have access to everything from social security numbers to date of births and grades. To protect this data, a school confidentiality policy might define how the school keeps this information safe and secure. For instance, filed records are likely to be kept in a locked area inaccessible to anyone but staff, while data stored on a computer are liable to be password protected and encrypted.
Often, schools will specify different levels of confidentiality. For example, a school nurse will normally have access to immunization records, medication logs, and detailed medical records on students. Teachers, on the other hand, may only have access to medical-related information if a student they teach has medical needs that need to be monitored or addressed during school hours. Alternatively, a parent will normally have full access to see any school records held for his or her own child. Parents do not, however, have any rights to see other students' information.
Another issue regularly tackled in a school confidentiality policy is establishing trust. To create an environment where students feel comfortable addressing a problem with a member of staff, policies usually brief educators on how to handle personal information that the student chooses to disclose. For instance, if a student requests contraception or sexual health advice from a nurse, the student may have the right to keep this information private from parents in some jurisdictions.
Student confidentiality policies are not meant to provide complete confidentiality, however. Instead, they provide a clear set of guidelines that lets faculty know how to protect student information and in what situations this information needs to be shared with others. Generally, a school confidentiality policy will not be broken unless not doing so could put a child’s safety or welfare in danger. If a student displayed signs of physical abuse or neglect, for example, teachers are commonly required to report this information to the proper school authorities. In some cases, they would also be required to inform the appropriate local authorities such as child protective services.
School confidentiality polices create a shared consistent vision that applies to everyone. This consistency helps parents, teachers, and caregivers understand what to expect in various situations and provides reassurances that student information is being handled appropriately. The term school confidentiality policy is more likely to be encountered in the United Kingdom educational system; most jurisdictions, however, have laws and policies in place that protect student confidentiality. Depending on the jurisdiction, some schools may not have a separate confidentiality policy but might choose to incorporate such guidelines into existing policies instead. Generally, these policies tend to apply at all levels of education, including preschool and university instruction.