PowerSchool Sued Over Student Data Collection: Millions Affected, Privacy at Risk?

powerschool class action lawsuit

Parents File Class Action Lawsuit Against Education Tech Giant, Raising Concerns About Student Data Privacy

Parents are suing education technology company PowerSchool, accusing it of collecting and selling student data without parental consent. The lawsuit claims this 'pervasive surveillance' impacts millions of students nationwide who use PowerSchool in their schools.

According to the parents of the three children, the company’s business model “depends on keeping parents in the dark” with PowerSchool not requiring parental consent for data sharing, concealing its “sweeping data practices behind opaque terms of service,” and refusing to share with parents the data that it does collect.

Is student data being "sold out"? 

Emily Cherkin and David Concepción filed the proposed class action lawsuit in San Francisco on behalf of their children, arguing that PowerSchool puts profits over people and ignores families’ fundamental rights, “thus inflicting irreparable harm on students and their families.”

Cherkin’s daughter attends school in Seattle and Concepción’s two daughters go to school in the West Contra Costa County Unified School District, the lawsuit says. Both say that their children use PowerSchool as part of their public schooling, on both school and at-home devices, and they were never informed about PowerSchool’s data practices, nor were they ever asked for her consent. Neither knows to this day the full extent of the data collected from their children. 

“By sending their children to school as the law requires, parents do not forfeit their right to decide what personal information may be extracted from their children and themselves and how that information may be used,” they argue. “PowerSchool must be held to account for violating these fundamental rights.”

Beyond privacy concerns: Potential risks of extensive data collection

Parents claim that PowerSchool:

  • Collects a vast amount of student data: This includes educational records, behavioral history, health information, and family details.

  • Lacks transparency: PowerSchool allegedly hides its data practices in complex terms of service and doesn't require parental consent for data collection.

  • Sells student data to third parties: The lawsuit argues PowerSchool profits by building "dossiers" on students and selling this information.

These practices, according to the parents, put millions of students at risk by:

  • Compromising data security: Extensive data collection increases the vulnerability of student information to breaches.

  • Exploiting students with persuasive design: PowerSchool might use student data to manipulate online engagement, potentially influencing behavior.

  • Limiting future opportunities: Sensitive data collection could restrict educational or employment opportunities for students.

“The information PowerSchool takes from students is virtually unlimited. It includes everything from educational records and behavioral history to health data and information about a child’s family circumstances. PowerSchool collects this highly sensitive information under the guise of educational support, but in fact collects it for its own commercial gain,” they allege. 

Data privacy laws and the PowerSchool lawsuit

The lawsuit argues PowerSchool violates data privacy laws like the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) meant to protect children's data online. 

State laws further enhance data protection, with notable examples being the California Consumer Privacy Act and its expansion under the California Privacy Rights Act, which provide California residents with significant control over their personal data. Those California laws are being used as the basis in this lawsuit, given PowerSchool is headquartered in the state.

Not the first time in court

This isn't PowerSchool's first legal battle. In 2023, a Chicago student sued over alleged data collection through its Naviance platform. And earlier this year, PowerSchool agreed to pay a $750,000 settlement to former and current employees in California who claimed the company failed to properly pay employee wages. The company denies all allegations.

The plaintiffs and the proposed class are represented by Shana E. Scarlett, Robert B. Carey, and Leonard W. Aragon of Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro LLP and Julie Liddell of Edtech Law Center PLLC. 

The PowerSchool data sharing class action lawsuit is Cherkin et al v. PowerSchool Holdings Inc, Case No. 3:24-cv-02706 in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, San Francisco Division. 



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