Bill is Designed to Protect Student Privacy after Pennsylvania Incidents
(TRENTON) - Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Annette Quijano, Ruben Ramos, Jr., Troy Singleton, Angelica Jimenez and Bonnie Watson Coleman to protect student privacy by increasing awareness of technology that can record and monitor their activities received final legislative approval on Thursday and now heads to the governor's desk.
"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."
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.
"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."
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.
"Parents and students deserve to know upfront what these devices are capable of," said Singleton (D-Burlington). "This will ensure that the student's privacy is protected and that these devices are being used in the manner in which they were intended."
"This will help students avoid any situations that, while perhaps not malicious in intent, could prove embarrassing," said Jimenez (D-Bergen/Hudson). "This measure is designed to enhance learning while protecting the rights of everyone involved."
"By providing full disclosure upfront, this bill will help protect student's privacy while also helping school districts avoid potentially negative consequences," Watson Coleman. "Technology can be a wonderful asset in a student's learning environment but it must be utilized properly."
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.
The provisions of the bill would go into effect on the next July 1 following enactment. The bill was approved 63-10-2 by the full Assembly last month, and 36-0 by the full Senate on Thursday.