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All is NOT Calm, But Will Be Alright; Congress and Student Privacy

By Noelle Ellerson Ng
Associate Executive Director, Policy & Advocacy, AESA 

It has been a busy six weeks on Capitol Hill concerning legislation about student privacy. Before I recap the current situation, let’s rewind for some context. 

At the start of 2024, Amelia Vance (Chief Counsel of AASA’s Student and Child Privacy Center) and I set out to meet with congressional staff from both sides of the aisle on committees of jurisdiction doing work in this space. After dozens of dozens of meetings with House and Senate staffers, we managed to meaningfully move the needle by educating the Hill staff, getting fixes for schools in legislation, and getting it all over the finish line (or more relevant to our work, to keep the policy from getting to the start line, but I digress). Here is the status on both sides of the Hill:  

SENATE:  For those of you with a long memory, you’ll recall we were opposed to the Children and Teens’ Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA 2.0) and the Kids Online Safety Act (KOSA) the last time both bills had serious traction in the Senate, which was December 2022. 

  • COPPA 2.0: After 12 months of negotiations with Senator Markey’s office, we were able to improve the language in COPPA 2.0 so that we can now endorse the legislation.  
  • KOSA: While we continue to work with the offices of Senators Blackburn and Blumenthal on KOSA, our priority changes remain unaddressed. If the bill goes to further mark up or vote, we would oppose it. 

Another bill we are watching is Senator Schatz’s Kids Off Social Media Act (KOSMA), which includes Senator Cruz’s Eyes on the Board Act. The Eyes on the Board oversteps local control, delays E-Rate funding, and creates a requirement for school screen time policies.

HOUSE: The House is taking a much broader approach, looking to pass a comprehensive bill (the American Privacy Rights Act (APRA)) that would have privacy protections for all consumers in addition to passing privacy protections specific to children and teens in the House versions of COPPA 2.0 and KOSA.  

  • APRA: Passed out of subcommittee in late May, scheduled for a full Commerce committee vote in mid-June. 
  • COPPA 2.0: Has been added to APRA, but unfortunately removed increased protections for teens and weakened the provisions that spell out when a company has to provide protections. However, this version did still include our negotiated changes. I sent a letter to the House offices yesterday to express our continued support for the original text of COPPA 2.0, urging the House to include the original language of COPPA 2.0 in APRA or continue moving COPPA 2.0 as a standalone bill. 
  • KOSA: Passed out of subcommittee in late May, scheduled for a full Commerce Committee vote in mid-June. 

Note: There is no House companion for KOSMA or Eyes on the Board.  

More to come:  As I am writing this article on June 5, the Senate Commerce Committee announced it is marking up a spectrum bill next week. Previous proposals for the markup of this bill (which we were happy to have had a hand in getting derailed) included the Schatz/Cruz bill, and we are waiting to see if KOSMA will be included again in next week’s markup. We are set to have another conversation with Senator Cruz’s staff today to review another round of edits. In all candor, there is very little likelihood that we will be able to get the bill to a position that works for Senator Cruz that we can be neutral on, and we would not be upset to see this bill off Congress’ radar.  

Rather than passing on their own in a contentious election year, we anticipate that it is far more likely for these bills to be folded into another bill like annual appropriations or the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). Long story short–we’re monitoring it all: each bill on its own, through multiple markups, and the other possible pathways.  


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