How to maintain student privacy online

Mark Racine Updated by Mark Racine

Many of our educators are sharing best practices online, engaging with students and their families, and posting some of the amazing work going on during the Coronavirus closure. We want the entire BPS community to continue to collaborate while also maintaining the confidentiality of our students. The following tips will help you adjust to the new way of teaching & learning while maintaining our obligations under the Family Educational Right to Privacy Act (FERPA)

For more information on our obligations, please refer to the Boston Public Schools' Acceptable Use Policy below;

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Group Video Chats - Hangouts, Zoom, or other video conferencing tools

  1. Send invitation links privately to students via email or chat and avoid posting public links to your video conferences. This will prevent strangers from joining the conference while you are working with students.
  2. Do not use any recording tools when students are in the conference. This includes audio-only calls because students may inadvertently share their own personal information.
  3. Never discuss grading or student performance with other students on the video call. Services like Zoom allow for separate rooms so that you can have personal meetings with students to discuss privately.

Social Media

  1. Avoid situations where you may accidentally share the image or other personally identifiable information on students on public social media without the written permission of the parent.
  2. Never post any image that could contain student learning outcomes. For example, if you are posting photos of your "virtual classroom", make sure that you do not have any graded student work on your table.
  3. If you notice your students using social media to broadcast their own personal information, you may want to remind them to be careful. Not all of our students recognize what is private or public on the Internet.

Collaboration Tools (i.e. Gmail, Google Docs)

  1. Always keep student information in the Boston Public Schools' GSuite environment and NEVER use your personal email account to share or store information. Please remember that the BPS GSuite environment has many protections that are not found in the consumer version of Google tools. For example, information contained in a personal Gmail account ( can be used for advertising.
  2. The default setting for a Google Doc is private; it is always best to keep a document limited to the participants of the document unless the document will not have private information and there is a small group of editors. BPS recommends that you never allow a document to be made editable by anybody with the link.

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