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Lawmakers move to protect student data

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PIERRE -- Information collected in schools about South Dakota students must be limited, and restrictions must be placed on sharing the data, the state House of Representatives decided Monday.

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House members voted 70-0 for the legislation from Sen. Ernie Otten, R-Tea, and Rep. Jim Stalzer, R-Sioux Falls. SB 63 is now in its fourth version and needs to return to the Senate for further consideration.

The Senate passed the measure 34-0 on Jan. 23. According to Rep. Jacqueline Sly, the bill hasn't received a single vote of opposition so far.

"Privacy of student data has come to the forefront the last few years," said Sly, R-Rapid City. She is chairman of the House Education Committee.

Stalzer said one section of the legislation establishes nine items, ranging from political and religious beliefs to gun ownership and income, which students can't be asked by school officials without permission from their parents.

The state secretary of education would receive authority to add more items to that list, Stalzer said.

The state Department of Education would be charged with responsibility to develop security measures to protect student data from unauthorized persons or unauthorized uses.

The measure also would prohibit release of personal information to the U.S. Department of Education other than for purposes of improving migrant programs.

"They can send aggregate but not personally identifiable," Stalzer said.

He said parents are looking for additional protections because South Dakota is participating in the new Smarter Balanced achievement tests being used by many states.

Smarter Balanced tests are in a trial run this year in South Dakota as part of the conversion to the new Common Core standards for math and English language arts. Common Core has been the target of many bills and resolutions from opponents this legislative session.

The Otten-Stalzer bill is "another step forward," said Rep. Jim Bolin, R-Canton. He has been the Legislature's leader against Common Core in recent years.

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Bob Mercer
Bob Mercer reports from the South Dakota Capitol in Pierre for The Daily Republic and other newspapers around the state.
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