Legislation exempts student data from public records requests
BOSTON – Today, the Massachusetts State Senate took action to protect student information by passing legislation that would ensure public colleges and universities in the Commonwealth are not required to disclose student record information as part of public records requests.
The bill, filed by Senator Michael O. Moore (D-Millbury) who serves as Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Higher Education, amends Chapter 66 of the General Laws so that campuses are not required to comply with public records requests for student data that is defined as an "education record" in the Federal Family Education and Privacy Act. This data includes records that have been designated by campuses as directory information.
Public higher education institutions are constantly inundated with public records requests for the personal information of students. These requests seek information including student names, home and school addresses, date of birth, telephone and cellphone numbers, email addresses, area of study, graduation date, and parent's names and addresses. Under the existing public records law, public campuses are compelled to provide this information.
“At an early age, we teach our children never to speak with strangers, and yet our existing laws compel public colleges or universities to disseminate student information—clearly there’s a gap in reason,” said Senator Moore. “We have a duty to protect student information from falling into the hands of outside parties, which often seek to use the information for marketing purposes and self-gain. It’s also important for students to trust that the information disclosed to their college or university is not being publically shared.”
“The opportunity to attend college is a dream and a privilege shared by many students across Massachusetts,” said Senate President Harriette L. Chandler (D-Worcester). “When these students attend a public university and voluntarily submit their personal information, that information should absolutely not be subject to disclosure to an outside party. I am happy that Senator Moore and the Senate were able to pass this legislation.”
"I am incredibly happy that Senator Moore and his Senate colleagues addressed his bill this week,” said Vincent Pedone, Executive Officers, Massachusetts State Universities Council of Presidents. “In our view, the personal information of students on public college campuses in Massachusetts should not be subject to the open meeting law allowing predatory companies access to their phone numbers, email addresses and other personal information. Passage of this bill will help public colleges and universities protect that student information.”
The legislation, which passed the Senate unanimously, has now been referred to the House of Representatives for consideration. To continue tracking the bill, S.2309, please click below.