Senate discussing improvements to online student privacy

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JEFFERSON CITY - The Missouri legislature is exploring ways to better protect online student privacy in elementary and high schools. 

The Senate held a second reading Thursday on a bill that would require schools to maintain a comprehensive information security program to protect students' privacy of personal information on school websites.

Columbia Public Schools Community Relations Director Michelle Baumstark said maintaining security can be difficult with constantly changing technologies.

"It changes daily," Baumstark said. "There's new apps coming out. There's new cyber attacks coming out. There's new viruses you have to look out for. It is constantly evolving, so we always have to be one step ahead of it."

The bill would also make schools provide clear information concerning the student personal information they collect and how they use and share it. 

Baumstark said protecting the students' personal information is a high priority. 

"These are minors, so certainly we have to protect them," Baumstark said. "We try to have a lot of things put in place to keep them safe, but we know that it's not perfect. That's where the educational component comes into play."

Baumstark said all Columbia Public Schools have firewalls in place on their websites with a secure system that is password-protected.

"That part of it is going to be constantly evolving as new software comes out," Baumstark said.

Columbia Senator Kurt Schaefer sponsored the bill.