Support the Student Privacy Protection Act
Sun, 12 Aug 2001 19:42:30 -0700
Commercial Alert August 13, 2001
Please ask key Members of Congress to support the Student Privacy
On June 14, the U.S. Senate passed the Student Privacy Protection Act,
which would require parental consent before a corporation or person
could extract personal information from a child in school for commercial
purposes. The Senate approved the legislation as an amendment to the
Elementary and Secondary Education bill (S.1). It is now pending before
a House-Senate conference committee, where it faces strong opposition
from the anti-privacy lobby, advertisers, some publishers and Primedia
Inc., which owns Channel One.
Increasingly, corporations wish to use the schools to gather personal
information and market research from schoolchildren without parental
consent, and against the wishes of many parents. Companies such as the
ZapMe! Corp., N2H2 Inc. and Noggin, among others, have tried to turn the
schools into market research factories.
Since we compel children to attend school under force of law, we ought
to protect them from companies that would use the schools to violate
The Student Privacy Protection Act would require parental consent prior
to the gathering of personal information from schoolchildren for
commercial purposes. The legislation would require schools to tell
parents to what entity their children's personal information would be
disclosed, how that information would be used, and the amount of class
time consumed. The legislation has a loophole that allows local school
boards to opt out of the parental consent requirements, regarding
information that is not personally identifiable, if the schools notify
the parents about the data collection from children.
To read the full text of the Student Privacy Protection Act, see:
WHAT YOU CAN DO TO HELP:
Several Capitol Hill sources say that the main opponent to student
privacy amendment is Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA), the powerful
chairman of the Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, and
the lead Senate conferee.
Please contact Sen. Kennedy and ask him (politely) to protect
schoolchildren from privacy invasion by supporting the Student Privacy
Protection Act. His email address is <email@example.com>. His
education staff's phone is 202.224.5501.
Please also ask any education conferees (listed below) from your state
to support the Student Privacy Protection Act. The Congressional
switchboard phone is 202.225.3121. To find the local phone numbers and
e-mail addresses of your Members of Congress, see
Senators Kennedy (D-MA), Dodd (D-CT), Harkin (D-IA), Mikulski (D-MD),
Jeffords (I-VT), Bingaman (D-NM), Wellstone (D-MN), Murray (D-WA), Reed
(D-RI), Edwards (D-NC), Clinton (D-NY), Lieberman (D-CT), Bayh (D-IN),
Gregg (R-NH), Frist (R-TN), Enzi (R-WY), Hutchinson (R-AR), Warner
(R-VA), Bond (R-MO), Roberts (R-KS), Collins (R-ME), Sessions (R-AL),
DeWine (R-OH), Allard (R-CO) and Ensign (R-NV).
Reps. Boehner (R-OH), Petri (R-WI), Roukema (R-NJ),
McKeon (R-CA), Castle (R-DE), Graham (R-SC), Hilleary (R-TN), Isakson
(R-GA), George Miller (D-CA), Kildee (D-MI), Owens (D-NY), Patsy Mink
(D-HI), Andrews (D-NJ) and Roemer (D-IN).
Following is a dear colleague letter from Senators Christopher Dodd
(D-CT) and Richard Shelby (R-AL) in support of the Student Privacy
August 3, 2001
We are writing to you in your capacity as a member of the Elementary and
Secondary Education Act Conference Committee. We urge you to retain
sections 6401 and 6402 of the Senate bill, which incorporate our Student
Privacy Protection Act (SPPA).
We are deeply troubled by the rapid rise in recent years of commercial
activity in our nation's elementary and secondary schools, in particular
the collection of information from students to be used to market
commercial products to students without the knowledge or consent of
their parents. Such activity both invades students's privacy and
detracts from the time students need to learn.
During the Senate debate on ESEA, we offered SPPA as an amendment, to
guarantee parents the right to consent before a school could allow a
third-party to collect information directly from students to use for
commercial purposes, or collect such information on behalf of a
third-party. The amendment explicitly exempted the collection of
information to develop, evaluate, or provide educational products or
services. The amendment was accepted by unanimous consent of the
We recognize that businesses often are great partners with schools and
SPPA does not prohibit a single agreement between schools and
businesses. In addition, SPPA protects children's privacy without in
any way restricting their access to or input into the development of
valuable educational products and services.
The amendment requires parents' consent before firms can collect
information from their children for commercial purposes during
schooltime, while allowing school districts to make appropriate
exceptions in consultation with parents. According to the National PTA,
the amendment is consistent with existing school practices for parental
consent for example, those requiring permission slips for field
trips. We want to ensure that schools remain places where students
learn about their world, not where the business world learns private
information about students.
SPPA is endorsed by organizations such as the National PTA, the Center
for Commercial-Free Public Education, Commercial Alert, Consumer's
Union, Eagle Forum, and The Motherhood Project. We have attached a
fact-sheet about SPPA. If you have any further questions, please
contact us, or our staffs, Lloyd Horwich (Senator Dodd, 4-0207) or
Shannon Hines (Senator Shelby, 4-6513).
Christopher J. Dodd Richard C. Shelby
<dear colleague letter ends here---->
Following is a fact-sheet from Senators Dodd and Shelby about the
Student Privacy Protection Act.
Dodd-Shelby Student Privacy Protection Act
What Dodd-Shelby does:
* Protects parents' right to decide whether their children should be
asked personal questions which have no educational purpose by companies
during school hours.
* Allows local educational agencies, in consultation with parents, to
modify the bill's consent requirements.
What Dodd-Shelby does NOT do:
* Does NOT prohibit commercial agreements between schools and
* Does NOT require parental consent to collect information from students
to develop, evaluate, or provide educational products or services to
students or schools e.g.
* College recruiting, low-cost book clubs, textbooks, magazines and
other materials used to support curriculum, tests.* Caps and gowns,
class rings, team uniforms, yearbooks, etc.
* School fundraising drives, so long as the information is used only to
administer the fundraising drive (e.g., to deliver the product).
* Dodd-Shelby is NOT inconsistent with current school practices
concerning parental consent. Schools already communicate with parents
constantly, and frequently require parental consent for school
activities e.g., field trips, after-school activities.
<----fact sheet ends here----->
For more information about the use of the schools to extract market
research from unsuspecting children, see Commercial Alert's web pages
* the ZapMe! Corp.: <http://www.commercialalert.org/zapme/index.html>
* N2H2 Inc.: <http://www.commercialalert.org/n2h2/index.html>
* Noggin: <http://www.commercialalert.org/releases/nogginrel.html>
For those interested in what the anti-privacy lobby is sending out,
following is an excerpt of a legislative alert from the Association of
National Advertisers, Inc.
<Association of National Advertisers Inc. letterhead>
DODD/SHELBY SCHOOL PRIVACY BILL SETS VERY DANGEROUS PRECEDENT FOR OTHER
(Senate Appoints Conferees on Education Bill)
July 13, 2001
Last month, the Senate adopted a revised version of S. 290, the
Dodd/Shelby school commercialism/privacy bill, as an amendment to S.1,
the education reform bill. While the amendment carved out several
exceptions, it would still impose a sweeping new privacy regime that
goes far beyond any other area of federal law. By requiring an opt-in
approach to the collection and use of even anonymous or aggregate data,
the Dodd/Shelby amendment sets a very dangerous precedent for other
general privacy legislation that may be considered by Congress. At a
Senate Commerce Committee hearing yesterday, Chairman Fritz Hollings
(D-SC) pledged to continue to push for his privacy legislation to
require an opt-in regime for all information collection
The Senate has now appointed their conferees on the education reform
bill. Even if your company is not involved in marketing or information
collection in the schools, we strongly urge you to contact members of
the conference committee to oppose this sweeping legislation.
<------letter ends here------>
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proper sphere, and to prevent it from exploiting children and subverting
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Gary Ruskin | firstname.lastname@example.org
Commercial Alert | Congressional Accountability Project
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