Wednesday, June 1, 2016

When Data Doesn't Fit the Box

Inside Higher Ed
By Carl Straumsheim
June 1, 2016

The U.S. Department of Education is telling colleges that accommodating transgender students extends to the data collected about them, but many colleges are finding that neither their software providers nor other federal agencies are prepared for such a change.

In a Dear Colleague letter issued earlier this month, the Education Department said colleges risk losing federal funding if they treat transgender students differently than other students of the same gender identity.

Those requirements also cover privacy and education records. According to the letter, a failure to keep a student’s transgender status private may be seen as a violation of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. Releasing a student’s name or sex assigned at birth without the student’s permission, it continues, could also be a violation of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974.

Many colleges have for years asked students to share their preferred names and pronouns, but that information is normally used locally on campus, for example in university communications and for faculty members during roll call. Since the federal government requires colleges to report legal names and genders, colleges often keep students’ preferences separate from the names and genders they were assigned at birth.

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