- Citing cybersecurity and student data privacy concerns, Louisiana Superintendent of Education Cade Brumley has advised all school system leaders in the state to immediately remove TikTok from any publicly funded devices.
- The popular video-sharing application is owned by Chinese company ByteDance Ltd., which Brumley said has an “extremely concerning” lack of data privacy measures. In a Jan. 3 memo to school leaders throughout the state, Brumley noted various reports have found few safeguards in place to prevent foreign governments from accessing private information on TikTok users’ devices.
- Additionally, Brumley recommended Louisiana school systems stop using TikTok as a communication tool for school systems or schools, including for extracurricular clubs and sports teams, since doing so “may create legal ramifications due to the potential release of personally identifiable student information.”
The call to remove TikTok from school devices in Louisiana follows enactment of a federal fiscal 2023 spending bill in late December that includes a provision banning TikTok from all devices issued by the federal government.
Just before that prohibition took effect, a memo from the chief administrative officer of the House of Representatives told lawmakers and staffers to delete TikTok from any House-issued devices, NBC News reported. That move to ban TikTok is tied to cybersecurity concerns, too, the memo said.
Meanwhile, earlier in December, Alabama State Superintendent of Education Eric Mackey advised district leaders to consider removing TikTok apps from school devices and networks, according to AL.com.
Although Louisiana recommended school systems stop using TikTok as a communication platform, the app is not a common social media tool for schools to use anyway. In a spring survey of 292 K-12 leaders, only 6% said their districts had a social media presence on TikTok, according to the National School Public Relations Association, or NSPRA, and the Consortium for School Networking, or CoSN.
“The vast majority of districts block students from accessing it [TikTok] on the educational network since it has little educational value,” said Keith Krueger, CEO of CoSN, in an email.
However, banning TikTok from school devices and networks will not address the main problem, which is students using TikTok on their personal devices, Krueger said. This can be a significant distraction and cause various problems at school, he said.
TikTok has been banned from school devices and networks for the past three years at Hinsdale Township High School District 86 in Illinois, said Keith Bockwoldt, the district’s chief information officer. The district made the move because students inappropriately used the app at school, and educators found little value in having TikTok available during school hours, he said.
Despite federal cybersecurity concerns with the app, Bockwoldt said he believes TikTok poses more of a threat to student data privacy than to a district’s cybersecurity network.
While districts cannot control how students use their own devices, they could possibly enforce shutting down TikTok accounts run by schools, said Melissa McConnell, manager of professional development and member engagement at NSPRA, in an email. Yet even monitoring and removing those accounts presents challenges, she said.
“It'd take a significant amount of time and research for a district to find those accounts if they haven't already been tracking them,” McConnell said. “Not all districts have a school comms [communications] person on staff or flat out may not be aware of accounts that have been created for school district purposes (teams, clubs, classes, etc).”