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Tips for School Psychologists Using AI: Essentials to Ensure Data Protection and Privacy.


school psychologist AI data privacy image created by Dr. Byron McClure School Psych AI

Will artificial intelligence (AI) take my job? What about keeping kid's data secure? How can you ensure student data is safe?


These are important questions. Since releasing School Psych AI and Sophia, these have been the most pressing questions I’ve received. To be honest, I’m glad these are the types of questions I’m fielding because it shows our field's commitment to keeping our young people safe. As school psychologists, we strive to support every student's social-emotional well-being, academic success, and now, digital privacy in an emerging AI world.


So back to the question, “how can you ensure student data is safe”? For starters, as school psychologists, we must adhere to our federal, state, and local ethical guidelines. More specifically, we have very clear professional ethics and standards. To protect the public and those who receive school psychological services, the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) has developed our code of ethics, which outlines the ethical principles of school psychology practice. This code of ethics is designed to sensitize school psychologists to the ethical aspects of our work, educate us about appropriate conduct, help us monitor our own behavior, and provide standards to be used in the resolution of complaints of unethical conduct.


Here’s the thing… With the rise of AI in education and now in school psychology, data protection is more vital than ever. We must prioritize and keep ethics at the core of how we conduct business.


In this article, I review considerations to help school psychologists thoughtfully use AI while upholding our professional code of ethics.


1. Familiarize yourself with FERPA.

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) is a federal law that protects the privacy of student education records. It gives parents and eligible students the right to access, review, and amend their education records; to consent to the disclosure of personally identifiable information (PII) from the education records; and to file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education if they believe their FERPA rights have been violated.


Before using any AI tool, make sure you understand your FERPA obligations. This includes understanding what PII is, how to protect it, and when you can and cannot share it with others. Importantly, School Psych AI does not request, collect, or store PII. In the instance, PII is entered, it will be immediately deleted.


2. Understand COPPA limitations.

The Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) is a federal law that protects the privacy of children under 13 online. It requires websites and online services that collect, use, or disclose PII from children under 13 to obtain verifiable parental consent before doing so. School Psych AI does not collect data from children. We will never request, purposefully collect, or intentionally store PII. In the instance, PII is entered, it will be immediately deleted.


If you're using AI tools to collect data from children under 13, make sure you're in compliance with COPPA. This may mean obtaining parental consent before collecting any data, or using anonymized or non-identifiable data whenever possible.


3. Emphasize anonymized data tools.

One of the best ways to protect student data privacy is to use AI tools that only collect and use anonymized or non-identifiable data. This means that the data cannot be linked back to individual students. The policy at School Psych AI is for users to never enter PII. In the event a user accidentally does, it will be immediately deleted. In terms of school psychologists who use the platform, your chats and conversations are encrypted and anonymized, which means your chats are confidential and secure.


When choosing AI tools, look for solutions that offer anonymization features. You may also want to consider using data encryption to further protect student data.


4. Acknowledge regional privacy standards.

In addition to federal laws, there may also be state and local laws that apply to the collection and use of student data. For example, some states have laws that require schools to obtain parental consent before using facial recognition technology.

Before using any AI tool, make sure you're familiar with the privacy laws that apply in your region. You can find more information on the websites of your state and local education agencies.


5. Ensure robust data storage security.

Once you've collected student data, it's important to store it securely. This means using strong passwords, encrypting the data, and storing it on secure servers, which is routine practice at School Psych AI. All chats and information are encrypted, anonymized, and stored on secure servers, that are FERPA and HIPAA-compliant.


6. Regularly audit personal data.

It's important to regularly audit the personal data you've collected to ensure that you're only keeping what you need and that you're disposing of data properly.


When auditing your data, consider the following questions:

  • Is this data necessary for me to carry out my job duties?

  • Is this data accurate and up-to-date?

  • Is this data stored securely?

  • What are the legal requirements for keeping data (length, servers, etc.)?

7. Stay up-to-date on data privacy trends.

Data privacy laws and technologies constantly evolve. It's important to stay up-to-date on the latest trends so that you can ensure that your AI practices are compliant and secure. Some good ways to stay informed include reading industry publications, attending conferences, and following experts on social media.


8. Thoroughly review AI tool privacy policies.

Before adopting any AI tool, carefully review the terms and privacy policies. Make sure that the policies align with your professional ethics and practices. Specifically, look for clauses that address the following:

  • How will student data be collected, used, and stored?

  • Who owns the student data once it's collected?

  • What are the platform's security measures to protect student data?

  • What are your rights if there is a data breach?

If you're not comfortable with any of the terms, don't hesitate to find a different provider or platform (this includes SPAI, if you’re not satisfied or comfortable).


By following these tips, you can help protect student data privacy when using AI tools in your practice. Remember, data privacy is everyone's responsibility. Staying informed isn't just a best practice—it's our professional responsibility.


If you made it this far, here's a free infographic you can download to help you easily remember these considerations - click here to download.


For more insights into the intersection of school psychology and AI, follow @schoolpsychai across social media platforms.


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