One More Task: Consent Related to Online Learning

Cameron G. Shilling
Director, Litigation Department & Chair of Cybersecurity and Privacy Group
March 26, 2020

Independent schools have spent recent days and weeks scrambling to transition the classroom to an online platform.  Now that Governor Baker of Massachusetts extended his order requiring all schools to remain closed until May 4, 2020 (and many other states also issued similar orders) many schools are appreciating the extra time to establish better protocols and practices for a remote learning environment.

One consideration emerging as particularly important is the need to obtain consent from families to record and collect information about students obtained by the school (purposefully or otherwise) during remote learning sessions.  While many schools may already have in place some form of “student media consent” that permits the school to share student images and artwork in school-sponsored newsletters, admissions materials, and social media networks, other schools may not have considered the particular permission that should be received from parents (or from students age 18 and older) relevant to an online learning environment.

It is important that families be informed about how the school will manage the remote learning process, including the recording or reproducing of class sessions, group chats, and written course materials.  Schools should also set rules prohibiting students and families from making their own “unofficial” recordings of themselves, their classmates, teachers, and coursework.

A consent form need not be a lengthy document and can be executed electronically with one parent or guardian signing it.  Schools should maintain such forms in a secure environment in case it will be needed next year.  Please do not hesitate to reach out to us for assistance.