School security: Protecting student information in a digital age

security_locked_computer_smaller-1In today’s digital age, it’s common for schools to use technology for everyday tasks, student management, or classroom activities – it just make life easier. But as wonderful as technology is, it also brings up new concerns about protecting student information. So how can you make smart tech decisions? How can you combine ease of use with student safety? The answer starts with the unsung hero of the school: The IT guy, or gal.

We work with a variety of clients, from those who have been using paper and pen for the last 50+ years, to others who who use a full suite of technologies – from school management platforms to our SMR software. One thing they all have in common is this: Each school relies on their technology department to make crucial decisions about the security and safety of new software and technologies.

That’s why I want to tell you this: The IT department has a very tough job, and an irreplaceable one at that.

Think about it. Every time a teacher wants to conduct a Bring Your Own Device day, or when an administrator wants to implement an emergency notification system, it doesn’t just happen. Thorough research has to be conducted, tough questions have to be asked, and final decisions have to be made. And for the people running a school’s technology department, one of the most important questions at the center of it all is, “Is this safe?”

We get that question quite often, and we also hear from school IT departments who want to know what we’re doing to ensure student information stays safe from breeches, hacks, and wandering eyes. After all, with news of student data breeches happening through just one fateful email, we all have a reason to be cautious.

As for SMR, we take into account several levels of data encryption, thorough employee training, and our own in-house security measures including ridiculously long passwords for each person’s computer. To put it simply, we take student security very seriously, but we can’t speak for every company that works with schools. That’s why the school technology team is invaluable. They are the ones who know the difference between cloud-based and cloud-based with encryption. They understand what needs to happen behind the scenes to reduce the possibility of a student data breech.

So for the sake of the students, if you’re looking into new software, here’s what we’ve learned can help any school make a smart decision:

  1. Involve the IT department early. Both parties should have open conversations about what the school wants to achieve with the technology and how to go about it safely. 
  2. Go through the proper training, and set proper user restrictions. Whether it’s educating teachers and students on smart internet usage, or limiting which administrators can see sensitive student information within student management software, precautions should be set in place.
  3. Educate parents. Parents have high expectations of how student data is going to be handled, and each new technology poses a new risk.

When I asked our own IT team about what schools can do to help ensure smart software decisions to protect student information, the very first resource they told me about is the Department of Homeland Security’s library of advice on common security issues. With these resources, helpful tips, and your trusty IT department, you can be sure you’re making smarter technology decisions, protecting students, and creating a safe school.

For more on protecting student data, view our comprehensive resource on the subject.

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