As school system leaders, one of the most important responsibilities we have is to ensure that our students remain safe while in our care.  That means not just protecting their physical safety, but also the information that we maintain about them.  While there are laws at the federal and state levels that inform legal requirements to protect the privacy and security of student data, creating a successful compliance program and building trust within our communities about how we operate means going beyond the laws.  It requires executing on a thoughtful, comprehensive data privacy and security program that engages all of our employees, being transparent about the ways in which we work to protect the data entrusted to us, and continuously improving our program over time.
At Raytown Quality Schools, protecting the privacy and security of student data is one of our core concerns.  We leveraged the Trusted Learning Environment (TLE) program to assess how we were doing around student data privacy and security, and to provide our community with another way to understand the steps we take to protect student data.  While we’ve always worked hard to develop and implement strong compliance policies and practices, going through the Trusted Learning Environment program allowed us to take objective measure of the steps we had taken and quantify the work against specific criteria developed in partnership with a variety of our school system peers.
The TLE program reinforces the idea that data privacy and security practices start with leadership:  the scope of the requirements makes it clear that compliance requires “all hands,” and as leaders, we set the tone and the expectations around compliance.  We also empower our teams to work together to build a comprehensive program such as the one envisioned by the TLE criteria. 
Going through the TLE program can guide school systems of all shapes and sizes through building or assessing their compliance programs.  It requires bringing together existing policies and practices and lining them up against the requirements.  This really helps to highlight where there might be gaps to attend to, or where a policy might not have been refreshed in awhile.  It reveals where your program is current and where it may need attention.  Having an experienced, objective review provides even greater insight into what policies and practices are up to par, and where they can be improved.
Finally, earning the Seal is a great conversation starter within the community.  For Raytown, it earned us positive attention from press and parents alike.  It keeps us even more mindful of our obligations and gives us a focus to keep improving in the future.
For more information on the Trusted Learning Environment Program, including information on how to apply, visit  Applications are open now through March 15, 2017.