What Every Parent Needs to Know About School Directories

08-27-2015 10:13 AM

Editor's Note: Domestic Violence survivors need to pay special attention, so they can minimize the risks of abusers tracking them or attempting to contact their children directly.

Personally, I like our school's online directory. I can see photos of my boys' friends, download the phone number for other parents, and get email and home addresses if I need them. I really love the handy app that allows all this information to become contacts in my phone too.

But here's what I learned this week from the Tech Safety blog that makes me reconsider this convenience. Tech Safety is an offshoot of the National Network to End Domestic Violence. Both sites are packed with news you can use. You can get news by liking and following NNEDV's Facebook page.

Schools can share directory data with third parties without your permission.

Yes, really.

Under the federal law called the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), any public school that receives federal funding (most public schools) can share “Directory Information” about students with any third party upon request. Any third party means anyone.

"Directory information" can include birthday, home address, height, weight, email address, photos, clubs they belong to, and other school-related details. This information can be released to anyone who asks for it, including marketers, information brokers (who collect and sell personal information), predators or abusers.

I'm completely amazed that this can happen without a parent's consent.

Private schools, which do not receive federal funding, have their own policies about directory information. So be sure to check with your school.

I'm going to email my boys' school today to get the policy on directory information. I prefer to get the statement in writing as to a phone call. Check your school handbook too.

Parents can opt their students out, but usually there's a short window for this at the beginning of the year. That's now!

This is why the World Privacy Forum launched #OptOutKids now as parents are focused on getting their children ready to return to school. You can download an opt out form too.

Please share this information on your social media sites, so all parents will know! You never know -- you might just save a life.

Stacy Graves is contributing editor of The Mary Kay Foundation℠ blog and loves every minute of it! She's also an active school volunteer and mom of two boys. You can connect with her at stacy.graves@me.com, Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest.