BC Privacy Laws for Educators: Who is Responsible?


“If found in breach of the current privacy protection laws in BC, an individual teacher could be fined between $2,000.00 to $5,000.00 while a school could face fines as high as $50,000.00.” (Hengstler, 2013)

Often the exemplars of learning involving Web 2.0 tools that are presented to BC educators are not in compliance with BC Privacy’s laws or, at least, do not explicitly address them (e.g. student ePortfolios).

Who is responsible?

I1106852126n light of the possible consequences of ignorance . . .

In your opinion, what percentage of your colleagues are aware of the BC privacy laws? Whose responsibility is it to ensure teacher awareness of and education in the BC Privacy Laws? (e.g. BCTF, Ministry of Education, university education programs, BCCT, school districts, trustees, administrators, individual teachers, OIPC, no one, etc.) Please explain your reasoning and thoughts.

17 thoughts on “BC Privacy Laws for Educators: Who is Responsible?

  1. Well now I’m a little stressed out and overwhelmed! Thanks for pushing me to really focus in on this and figure out what it means for me. I’m going to gather my thoughts and get back to you.

  2. I know, right? It seems that for such a potentially serious situation that there should be more knowledge and guidance on Ed tech and privacy laws in BC. I can’t figure out if the silence is a way of creating space for teachers to experiment in peace or a way of abdicating responsibility. It’s been bugging me for a couple years now.

  3. Devon, thanks for reminding us of our duties to (a) know the laws and (b) to ensure we are in line with them. This is a great question and one that should be a regular part of our discussions on technology use in our classrooms and schools.
    However, it is not one that we have had at our school and at my level (elementary). If it is discussed, I would guess that it is a once-in-a-while type of discussion. In my opinion, most of my colleagues are not aware of the BC Privacy Laws as they pertain to their classrooms, teaching, and use of technology as an educational tool.
    Many of my colleagues are busy just trying to keep up with the changing climate of technology use in the classroom (e.g., interactive white board use) and don’t consider the important role this legislation has on their students’ rights and their duties as teacher.

    In reference to the second part of your question, I think that the most effective way to disseminate information is to ensure that it becomes a regular part of each and every ed tech communication piece, workshop, discussion, implementation strategy, lunch and learn sessions, etc. How?

    Here are a few ideas:
    – Ministry officials and/or BCTF staff can offer workshops during the province-wide Pro-D day (usually in October)
    – memos and communiques can be sent by district offices to all school principles for dissemination to their staff
    – principles can add an ed tech consideration to each staff meeting (5 minutes)
    – teachers can share what they know with each other in the lunch room and in casual conversations

    We must become informed, and it is our duty as teachers to know how Privacy Laws have changed recently AND how they effect us and our teaching.

    Whew… Now, where to find the time? My answer: make time. This matters.

    • Danielle,
      I love your practical and action orientated mind! Excellent sensible steps: integration in all things tech ed . . .

  4. Well this week’s readings certainly scared me! I don’t think I have been doing things entirely properly and I guess that’s my fault. I have just been following the examples that others have set for me in my school. I didn’t even realize that BC Privacy laws had changed or that it meant anything for schools. I am left wondering if I missed something? It seems crazy that something this important is not talked about. I imagine that current university students are being taught these things, but what about the rest of us? My ed tech course consisted of things like how to set up a webpage, and how to use photoshop. It was before the prevalence of social media how we currently know and use it.
    So, is this on me to make sure I am up to date? Well now that I know about it I would consider it my responsibility to ensure I keep up to date and fully understand the implications. But who’s job was it to let me know this was even an issue? I would think it would be the Ministry by way of the school districts and administrators. I would think that the information has to come from them, they surely know about this and its implications. As Danielle said there are many ways to do this. I have never received an email or memo about this, I have never heard anything about this in a staff meeting. So who is dropping the ball? Are we all ignoring it hoping it will go away? That certainly doesn’t seem like the best idea. For the time being, as I do know about this issue now, I feel like it is partly my responsibility to pass the message on.

    • Nicole, I actually find many new teachers come out of education programs not only unaware of the privacy laws but encouraged to use a wide range of ed tech some of which clearly flirt with violating the laws. It really depends on the university. I don’t think you missed anything. This is definitely not really discussed.

  5. This conversation is so timely and relevant to our practice right now. Your initial thoughts are great provocations. Let’s tweet this out and see if we can get some thoughts on the matter. Stay tuned.

  6. Fantastic question, Devon. When I polled my staff with a similar question regarding BC privacy laws, no one knew any specifics. They referred to the district’s policy regarding students’ online usage. We had this discussion because many of my colleagues wanted to create a Weebly site to communicate to parents. Some wanted to post student exemplars and pictures on their site. When I provided information from the “Primer,” many were shocked.

    I believe the responsibility of informing teachers of the privacy laws comes directly from teacher-librarians. Another PLN group discussed “library credentials.” Wouldn’t this be classified as essential. Often, I am reminded from my admin. to use Web tools to support student learning. They, themselves, are not aware of the privacy laws. Also, many t-ls, in my district do not have any library qualifications. This is my third year in the library, and I did not know about this (nor has it been shared at any local psa). I will inform my colleagues to respect the safety and privacy of the students.

    • I like your idea of Teacher Librarians taking on a key role regarding educating educators on the BC Privacy Laws. However, I think your point regarding administrator ignorance is also crucial: who is responsible for educating our administrators?

  7. Take a look at this piece I wrote on FIPPA compliance in BC school: the paper “The Compliance Continuum: FIPPA & BC Public Educators” can be downloaded from the blog post at https://jhengstler.wordpress.com/2014/04/24/the-compliance-continuum-fippa-bc-public-educators/

    The U.S. Model emerging with the U.S. Department of Ed creating a department to support approaches to privacy & providing professional development content is a useful example; however, the applications of the law can be nuanced and I am coming to believe that each school should have a designated specialist to support the everyday teacher in assessing and mitigating privacy risks in the use of online tools. It’s beyond what the ‘privacy officer’ position has been called upon to do in SDs in the past as it deals more with weighing risks and educational benefit.

  8. PS I often invite educators to view upgrading their privacy related practices like seismic-upgrading. Triage: review your areas of greatest vulnerability and address first. You cannot address it all in one fell swoop–generally overwhelming and under productive. Start from weakest points & move forward. What’s important is that you are making the necessary changes. Build a plan and timeline. Make progress & keep kids & yourself safe while benefitting from educationally relevant tools.

    • Good analogy! Practical and doable. I guess it come down to who take the lead in each school (district?) to create that plan and timeline . . .

      • Depends on where your EdTech leadership is located–admin, single teacher, etc. If you have a group of users–can do more via organized collaborative efforts. Someone, or several someone’s should have designated time and resources to stay current & help support less savvy teachers. This is valuable work and should not be done ‘off the side of our desks’.

        • I couldn’t agree more. If it’s done of the side of someone’s desk:
          1. The message it’s not valued by the employer is sent;
          2. It can’t help but be ‘patchy’;
          3. The knowledge and process is dependant on that specific person. When they move schools or districts, there is a void left;
          4. And that’s just not fair . . .

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