Doctor of Philosophy
Richard S. Vacca
Privacy in the workplace will be a significant legal and policy issue in employment during the late 1990's. The impact of computer technology in employment highlights privacy concerns and issues and is particularly acute in public school employment. Public schools have a right to know information about teachers which relates to their fitness in working with children. At the same time, teachers have a legitimate expectation of privacy, especially as it applies to their professional reputations and their abilities to maintain or obtain future employment in teaching.
This study had two purposes. One was to determine the extent of computer usage for personnel files in Virginia public schools, and the existence of policies and nature of practices for the management of data maintained in such a fashion through a survey of all school divisions in Virginia. The other was to make recommendations to assist public school divisions in the establishment or revision of management policies and practices governing computerized personnel files, after a thorough review of applicable sources of federal and state law.
The study found that 83% of all public school divisions in Virginia responding to the survey use computers to maintain at least one category of personal information about their teachers. The categories of data range from contract information to employee assistance programs. School divisions use a variety of computer formats (i.e., mainframes, minicomputers, PCs) for these purposes.
The results of the survey demonstrate that not all school divisions have written policies in place, or training of staff, or security mechanisms for their computer systems necessary for compliance with state statutes. These statutes, the Freedom of Information Act, the Privacy Protection Act, and the Computer Crimes Act, delineate the legal responsibilities of school divisions in the areas of employee privacy and management of personal information. The study concludes with specific recommendations for the areas of written policy, staff training, and system security.
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