The Center for Democracy & Technology submitted the following comments to the U.S. Department of Education (ED) on its proposed Civil Rights Data Collection (CRDC). CDT applauds ED’s ongoing efforts to ensure that all students have equitable educational opportunities by collecting data on their experiences through the CRDC. In its comments, CDT calls on ED to address the role of technology in discipline practices by adding questions to the CRDC about the equity and privacy impacts of invasive software that schools are implementing to monitor students’ activity online.
An existing priority of the CRDC is obtaining data about school climate factors, including the disparate discipline of historically marginalized groups of students; however, it does not currently analyze the unprecedented growth of technology as a result of the pandemic and the significant impact of that technology use on student discipline practices. Student activity monitoring software permits schools unprecedented glimpses into students’ lives, including analyzing students’ browsing habits, scanning their messages and documents, and viewing or listening to activities in the home. According to research by CDT, 43 percent of teachers using student activity monitoring software report the software is used to “identify violations of disciplinary policy.” We urge ED to generally collect data on the use of student activity monitoring software for student discipline and its impact on marginalized groups of students in particular.
CDT also supports ED’s long-term efforts to better understand the education experiences of LGBTQIA+ students, including nonbinary and transgender students. CDT, however, encourages ED to proceed judiciously to ensure that its data collection does not jeopardize the privacy or safety of LGBTQIA+ students and that the CRDC fully represents the experiences of students of diverse gender identities. If necessary, ED should consider delaying the proposed collection of data on students’ nonbinary identities to address foundational questions regarding students’ privacy, safety, and inclusion.