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New Report Highlights LGBTQ+ Student Views on School Technology and Privacy

Today, LGBT Tech, a national, nonpartisan group of LGBT organizations, academics, and high technology companies and the Future of Privacy Forum (FPF), a global non-profit focused on privacy and data protection, released a new report, Student Voices: LGBTQ+ Experiences in the Connected Classroom. The report builds on FPF and LGBT Tech research, including interviews with recent high school graduates who identify as LGBTQ+ to gather firsthand accounts of how student monitoring impacted their feelings of privacy and safety at school.

“LGBTQ+ students are at greater risk for their online activity being flagged or blocked by some content filtering and monitoring systems, and hearing first-hand about their experiences was incredibly important and informative,” said Jamie Gorosh, FPF Youth & Education Privacy policy counsel and an author of the report. “We hope that the recommendations outlined in this report can help schools and districts develop policies that better reflect the views of LGBTQ+ students and ultimately create a safe learning environment for all students.”

LGBTQ+ Experiences in the Connected Classroom analyzes the concerns that arose in conversations with LGBTQ+ students regarding school technologies and privacy, including concerns about identity, parent/caregiver access to data, health information, and student safety. The report then outlines a series of recommendations and actionable steps for schools and districts to address those concerns and others, including to:

  • Improve transparency and communication with the school community about what technology is being used and how the district is using it, including by sharing with students and parents a clear monitoring policy, the name of the monitoring vendor, a list of websites that will be blocked (how a student could contest a decision to block a site), and the school officials who will have access to content flagged by monitoring technology.

  • Carefully consider how and when monitoring technology is deployed, and develop safeguards for how information is used and shared, including by evaluating the efficacy of the product before purchasing, considering what content the monitoring system reviews and who has access to notifications, and understanding the vendor’s policies and procedures for sharing information with law enforcement.

  • Consider legislative or policy reforms establishing best practices for protecting LGBTQ+ students and student data privacy, such as a student safety exception amendment to FERPA or on the state level, legislation that emulates a 2014 California law that requires students and parents to be notified and given the opportunity to publicly comment before a district can gather information from students’ social media accounts.

  • Invest in more robust mental health services and support for LGBTQ+ students, as well as training for administrators to ensure they are able to meet the unique needs of these students. “If schools develop programming specifically aimed at providing resources and mental health care to LGBTQ+ students and create an overall environment of acceptance and inclusivity, that may make all the difference,” the report concludes.

“Our hope would be that every young LGBTQ+ individual would have a supportive family home when it comes to their sexual orientation or gender identity but unfortunately, over 60% of youth in a recent Trevor Project study did not feel their home was an LGBTQ+ affirming space,” said Christopher Wood, Executive Director, LGBT Tech. “Their public school, its faculty, and technology is most likely the closest line of support that young LGBTQ+ person has access to. With a wave of anti-LGBTQ legislation being passed across the US, it is more important than ever that school monitoring technology is not further inflicting harm on young LGBTQ+ individuals seeking information and support. We hope this report can help schools and districts identify areas for improvement and develop policies that create a safe, supportive learning environment for all students, especially those who might identify as LGBTQ+.”

LGBTQ+ Experiences in the Connected Classroom adds to the FPF Youth & Education Privacy team’s portfolio of work on the privacy implications of student monitoring, which also includes “The Privacy and Equity Implications of Using Self-Harm Monitoring Technologies: Recommendations for Schools” and an accompanying infographic, “Understanding Student Monitoring.”

To access the Youth & Ed team’s child and student privacy resources, visit and follow the team on Twitter at @SPrivacyCompass.

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