COPPA and Verifiable Parental Consent

If you’ve spent any­time talk­ing about an iPad deploy­ment, AppleIDs, social media — par­tic­u­larly Face­book, how you can use Ever­note (or many other web-based ser­vices) with stu­dents under the age of 13 you’ve more than likely been con­fused by COPPA. The Children’s Online Privacy Protect Act is what pro­hibits stu­dent under the age of 13 from using cer­tain online tools and appli­ca­tions and has been a topic I have spent a lot of time on this year.

It started this past sum­mer when I was talk­ing to a friend (@cuevash) at the Lap­top Insti­tute about Ever­note. and he asked me how we were han­dling COPPA with our under 13 stu­dents and I didn’t have a good answer for him.  It wasn’t some­thing I had con­sid­ered or, like most, really understood.

This prompted a series of dis­cus­sions between Reshan Richards (@reshanrichards) and I about what ser­vices we were using at our school and which were COPPA com­plaint, which weren’t and which couldn’t we really make sense of.

Later, while attend­ing the NEIT con­fer­ence an Mohonk I heard Danah Boyd (@zephoria) talk more on the topic and how COPPA was being inter­preted by fam­i­lies and the cul­ture of lying it was engen­der­ing.  The dis­cus­sions con­tin­ued with more peo­ple try­ing to fig­ure out how to deal with COPPA and still do the things they wanted with their students.

I had the good plea­sure of talk­ing per­son­ally with Curt Lie­neck (@clieneck) and the with him, Arvind Grover (@arvind), Alex Ragone (@alexragone) and Vin­nie Vrontny (@vvrotny) on EdTechTalk to really try to get a han­dle on how we were all look­ing at the issues and prob­lems with the Act.

What we uncov­ered was that the Act allows par­ents to pro­vide writ­ten con­sent for their chil­dren to use these tools and that the school could upon notify the fam­i­lies that we were using these tools and col­lect­ing ver­i­fi­able parental con­sent we could reg­is­ter stu­dents with these services.

We also spent time work­ing with cer­tain ven­dors, Ever­note in par­tic­u­lar, to help come up with lan­guage and the process steps to allow stu­dents to use these ser­vice — THANKS EVERNOTE!

What my school decided was to include with out Admis­sion con­tracts a let­ter that must be signed and returned to the school which acts as noti­fi­ca­tion and the ver­i­fi­able parental con­sent needed.  We also cre­ated a web page the includes infor­ma­tion about all of the tool in ques­tion includ­ing links to their pri­vacy poli­cies and terms of service.

I was even told by an Apple edu­ca­tional rep­re­sen­ta­tive at a recent con­fer­ence that this will cover the cre­ation of AppleIDs for stu­dents, though accord­ing to him Apple legal is work­ing on a COPPA com­pli­ant ver­sion of the AppleID.

What fol­lows is a copy of the doc­u­ment we include in our con­tracts.  I offer it as a guide foe you to use with your school, but highly rec­om­mend that you have your school admin­is­tra­tion and attorney(ies) look it over.  I would really like to ask all of you read­ing this or think­ing of using this form to share you thoughts, strug­gles, ideas and com­ment here so that we can all learn from one another. THANKS!


Dear Par­ents,

In order for [INSERT SCHOOL NAME] to con­tinue to be able to pro­vide your stu­dent with the most effec­tive web-based tools and appli­ca­tions for learn­ing, we need to abide by fed­eral reg­u­la­tions that require a parental sig­na­ture as out­lined below.

[INSERT SCHOOL NAME] uti­lizes sev­eral com­puter soft­ware appli­ca­tions and web-based ser­vices, oper­ated not by [INSERT SCHOOL NAME], but by third par­ties.  These include [LIST SOME EXAMPLES OF SERVICES], and sim­i­lar edu­ca­tional pro­grams. A com­plete list of the pro­grams with the pri­vacy pol­icy for each can be found at  [INSERT URL].

In order for our stu­dents to use these pro­grams and ser­vices, cer­tain per­sonal iden­ti­fy­ing infor­ma­tion, gen­er­ally the student’s name and email address, must be pro­vided to the web site oper­a­tor.  Under fed­eral law, these web­sites must pro­vide parental noti­fi­ca­tion and obtain parental con­sent before col­lect­ing per­sonal infor­ma­tion from chil­dren under the age of 13.

The law per­mits schools such as [INSERT SCHOOL NAME] to con­sent to the col­lec­tion of per­sonal infor­ma­tion on behalf of all of its stu­dents, thereby elim­i­nat­ing the need for indi­vid­ual parental con­sent given directly to the web site operator.

This form will con­sti­tute con­sent for [INSERT SCHOOL NAME] to pro­vide per­sonal iden­ti­fy­ing infor­ma­tion for your child con­sist­ing of first name, last name, email address and user­name to the fol­low­ing web-operators:  [INSERT NAMES OF CURRENT SERVICES] and to the oper­a­tors of any addi­tional web-based edu­ca­tional pro­grams and ser­vices which MKA may add dur­ing the upcom­ing aca­d­e­mic year.

Please be advised that with­out receipt of this signed form, your enroll­ment pack­age will not be con­sid­ered com­plete as [INSERT SCHOOL NAME] will be unable to pro­vide your stu­dent (s) with the resources, teach­ing and cur­ricu­lum offered by our 1:1 Learn­ing Program.

Stu­dent Name:


Parent/Guardian Name (PLEASE PRINT):

Parent/Guardian Sig­na­ture:








About William Stites

Currently the Director of Technology for Montclair Kimberley Academy, "Blogger in Chief" for, husband and father to two crazy kids who make me smile everyday.
This entry was posted in Administration & Management, COPPA, EdTech, Teaching & Learning and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.
  • Richard Kas­sissieh

    Thanks for shar­ing the lan­guage , Bill.

    • William Stites

      Hope it helps and gives you a start.

  • Dmo

    Thanks Bill you just saved me a ton of time. I appre­ci­ate the share.
    I plan to roll this out via an online form to our par­ents. We’ve recently adopted an online forms mod­ule from inRes­o­nance that is great.

    • William Stites

      Happy to help.  I’d be curi­ous how you obtain parental sig­na­tures in an online form.

      • Demetri Orlando

        The online form just has stan­dard lan­guage “by typ­ing my name in the box below, I indi­cate my accep­tance of the terms above…” and because we pro­vide par­ents a unique log-in to the sys­tem I believe it stands up as ver­i­fi­able consent.

  • llof­tus

    Great word­ing and a really use­ful tem­plate. Inter­est­ing to tie this con­sent to the enroll­ment pack­age. Any push-back?

    • William Stites

      Noth­ing yet… fin­gers crossed!

  • Stephen Saine

    Hey Bill, 

    This may be a ele­men­tary ques­tion (no pun intended), but I was won­der­ing at what age can chil­dren have email addresses? Does the school pro­vide them?  I’m actu­ally a devel­oper work­ing on a plat­form for kids and we are strug­gling with how we would reg­is­ter kids under 13.

    Thanks for the advice and nice article!


    • William Stites

      Many school assign stu­dents email address through their inter­nal sys­tems.  At which point it can be at any age.  The issue with COPPA is with out­side ser­vice where they are ask­ing for spe­cific infor­ma­tion about the stu­dents and then what their poli­cies are for using that information. 

      Make sense?

  • julesh­en­der­son

    Huge thanks for shar­ing this resource!  Very help­ful way to work around COPPA.

  • Tom Smith

    Hi Bill,
    Thanks for this post. It pro­vides some good think­ing and resources as we deal with this issue at our school.

  • Siob­han Ryan

    Is it okay to use this let­ter as start­ing point for parental permission?

    • William Stites

      Yes. It is what we (MKA) have used with our fam­i­lies in our Admis­sions con­tracts and is some­thing I believe other schools have used as well.

  • Ted Parker

    Totally agree this is a step we need to make. Also totally wor­ried about what hap­pens if/when parent(s) deny con­sent. Can we really put the brakes on using these tools? Same worry about par­ents’ con­cerns with screen time required for aca­d­e­mic work. Sus­pect our schools have to get out ahead of those con­cerns by ini­ti­at­ing these very con­ver­sa­tions ourselves.

    • William Stites

      Just fin­ished a new post on Apple’s new pro­gram for cre­at­ing Apple IDs for stu­dent under 13 — For inde­pen­dent school’s, like mine, this is some­thing that we can build into out con­tracts, for pub­lic schools it’s a mat­ter of parental edu­ca­tion about the pro­gram from an edu­ca­tional per­spec­tive. These are the new text­books and resources that stu­dents need to be suc­cess­ful in school.