Education & Government
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The Diligent team
GRC trends and insights

What is data governance and why should my school district care?

March 5, 2020
0 min read
Someone researching the importance of data governance in schools

School districts are required to collect, report, and store countless data on students and other aspects of the district. With great amounts of data, however, comes increased risk. Districts are responsible to manage this information responsibly and securely.

Data governance can employ sound policies, procedures, and technology plans to provide the school board, administrators, and staff with support and guidance on how to protect sensitive data, like student personal information.

What Is Data Governance?

Governance focused on the security of information can be helpful in mitigating risks associated with sensitive data. This form of governance is a collection of policies and procedures that deal with how the district's sensitive data, specifically personal information, is gathered, maintained, used, and distributed. Data governance provides important processes to protect the district and its students against cyber risks.

These processes and procedures also provide ethical guidelines regarding the district's sensitive data. When the district develops policies, procedures, and responsibilities that provide clarity around student and district data at each stage in its lifecycle, it prepares the way for the information to protect the student or individuals' rights to privacy, confidentiality, and security.

These privacy and security practices still provide accurate data on performance, achievement, and other information related to students and their districts. School districts need to be able to use data to better understand the needs of their students and community, but privacy does not have to be compromised in that effort.

An all-encompassing governance structure focused on data should establish and support policies and procedures around both the privacy and security of sensitive data.

What Risks Do Districts Face?

Local governments and other public institutions have faced more cybersecurity attacks in recent years. However, school districts are especially appealing to hackers because of the amount of private personal information data they possess. But, districts may not have the appropriate security resources, practices, or knowledge to ward off intruders, making them an easy target. Maintaining technology standards through proper data governance for your school district can protect sensitive data related to students and district business.

Local school districts are growing more prone to cybersecurity attacks. There is a lot to learn from the various experiences of other districts that have been attacked or hacked, and this can educate school boards on how to make proactive decisions regarding cybersecurity standards.

School boards are critical developing cybersecurity standards and leveraging good governance for the district to protect sensitive data related to district business and student information. Boards can take several actions to prevent, mitigate, and respond to cybersecurity threats.

Data governance helps districts mitigate risks associated with a variety of cybersecurity issues. Districts can face issues related to:

  • Data loss and a lack of recovery plans.
  • Illicit access to student or sensitive district information.
  • Improper collection, storage, or dissemination of sensitive information.
  • No standards or guidelines on how to prevent or report cybersecurity threats for board members, administrators, staff, and students.
  • Using physical vs. digital records.

How Governance Supports Strong Cybersecurity Practices

Districts face great challenges when it comes to protecting and storing sensitive data. Public schools are required to collect and report certain information to state and federal government agencies, but must be extremely careful to secure this information against cybersecurity threats. It is not unreasonable to think that in the near future schools may face regulations by the government to have thorough data governance programs and guides.

Good governance and strong cybersecurity practices provides districts with a clear understanding of how information is collected and handled. Key questions must be asked and honestly answered in order to identify any areas where stronger security or better practices are needed.

  • What data does our district gather?
  • Where is this data stored? Digitally? Physically?
  • Who has access to this data?
  • Who can share this data?
  • How is this information protected as it moves through the system?

Answering these questions equip districts in identifying areas of concern, where stronger policies and procedures can be developed and implemented to support better cybersecurity practices related to sensitive data information.

Districts can design and implement a technology plan for school districts that encourages the responsible use of school technology and networks. Educating students and staff on cybersecurity standards and why these standards are of importance in protecting district and student information is vital to cultivating a culture that shares value in the technology standards.

Sometimes the cost that comes with information protection can be steep, but the cost of losing sensitive data and putting the identities of innocent students is also high and irreversible. This lack of preparedness is a key factor in why school districts have become major targets for cyber attackers.

Software That Supports Data Governance

The investment in software that effectively and efficiently secures sensitive data related to the district and its students pays for itself in protecting from damages suffered from cyber attacks. When it comes to sensitive data the information should be stored on a private secure server and on sites with high-level encryption.

Community, a Diligent brand, is a secure board management software that supports and promotes modern data governance. Unlike many board portal services, Community boasts physically secure servers (that are video monitored) and 256-bit encryption, the strongest level of encryption currently available. These elements ensure privacy and security for your board's most confidential and sensitive data. Additionally, board portal users can securely access information (like the districts technology standards or policies and procedures related to governance focused on protecting sensitive data) from anywhere and any device.

Community's board management software encrypts all data and has a daily backup service to help mitigate risks related to sensitive data loss or exposure. Ensuring that your board's information is protected and secure means that your board has more time and energy to spend on other important issues.

Leveraging a board management software, like Community, helps school boards mitigate the risks associated with other insecure platforms. Community's security features support and promote practices that protect the sensitive information of your district and your students, while still providing the school board with a seamless and streamlined tool to share and access pertinent district information.

Leveraging the right technology, your school district can more easily launch a successful plan to mitigate cyber risks. A seamless board management software can assist school boards in tracking progress toward achieving goals related to cybersecurity for school districts.

The right technology can simplify and streamline data governance procedures and practices. Keep in mind the vision and goals for your district and how cybersecurity and technology can be integrated to more effectively and efficiently work towards those achievements.

School districts face a dilemma: the need to gather and report sensitive student information and the need to privately and securely maintain that data. This requires great thoroughness and conscientiousness on the part of board members and district administrators in developing and implementing data security measures that protects sensitive student and district information.


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