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What Data Protection Regulation Means for Schools

By John Mikton

On 25 May of this year, the European Union put into effect a law called the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). The measure, which was developed by the European Commission, contains a new set of rules governing the privacy and security of personal data and will impact all European Union (EU) organizations, both commercial and non-commercial. It will also impact any foreign companies or organizations that handle the personal data of EU citizens. The regulation is being put into effect as a reaction to recent changes regarding the digitization of information and the growing power of algorithms used by large corporations in analyzing and using personal data for commercial use. The GDPR has been designed to give EU citizens a greater level of control over how their data is processed and used by companies and organizations. For European international schools specifically, this means that the personal data of all faculty members, parents, and students will need to be organized and protected in accordance with the new rules laid down by the GDPR. There are three primary areas that European international schools have to focus on: Governance, Data Protection, and Cyber Security. Schools need to show that they are working toward compliance in all three areas in order to ensure that any personal data they process is handled and stored securely. The intention of these new regulations is to mitigate the risk of personal data not being properly safeguarded by the institutions that collect it. The rules of the GDPR also extend to those organizations and companies that European international schools use for different services in and out of school. Under the GDPR, schools will be responsible for ensuring that these organizations that might be accessing community members’ personal data are also compliant with the GDPR. There is no doubt this new regulation requires a lot work of European international schools as they review and analyze their current policies regarding the personal information of their community members. This past summer, as many European international schools realized the importance of this new regulation, the International School of Brussels (ISB) created a GDPR International Schools Work Group in an effort to share expertise and resources. During the two meetings hosted by ISB on their campus, more than forty-five European international schools came together with representatives from school leadership and information technology departments to discuss the changes brought on by the GDPR. These schools, in tandem with ISB GDPR work group, continue to collaborate virtually. The group has also been supported by the British consulting firm 9ine ( 9ine is currently working with a number of European international schools as consultants and experts on GDPR compliance in the context of a school environment. The process of changing protocols to comply with the GPDR can prove to be very time consuming. It requires entire school communities to implement new processes and shift mindsets regarding the way personal data is used, accessed, and shared. It can, in fact, be hard to imagine the magnitude of data that school communities work with, though this process is beginning to bring that to light. Below you’ll find some resources to support further understanding of the GDPR. A special thank you also goes to the International School of Brussels for facilitating the GDPR International Schools work group. Their initiative has been instrumental in supporting European international schools’ work to collaborate throughout this transition. Links GDPR International Schools work group, email to request to join: [email protected] Official EU Home page of GDPR Preparing for GDPR in schools 9ine Consulting Blog “Preparing for the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) – 10 Steps for Schools.” Harrison Clark Rickerbys.

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