Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act
The federal law that addresses student privacy and records is the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, or FERPA (pronounced FUR- pah).
FERPA gives parents certain rights with respect to their children’s education records at elementary and secondary
schools that are subject to FERPA’s requirements. These rights transfer to the student when he or she reaches the age of 18 or attends a post-secondary institution any age (“eligible student”). Under FERPA, a parent or eligible student must provide a signed and dated written consent before a school discloses personally identifiable information from the student’s education records. 34 CFR § 99.30.See34 CFR § 99.3 for the definition of “personally identifiable information.” Exceptions to the general consent requirement are set forth in § 99.31 of the FERPA regulations. The term “education records” is defined as those records that are: (1) directly related to a student; and (2) maintained by an educational agency or institution, or by a party acting for the agency or institution.See34 CFR § 99.3 for the definition of “education records” and a list of records that are not included in the definition. Accordingly,
all records, including immunization and other health records, as well as records on services provided to students under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and records on services and accommodations provided to students under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, that are directly related to a student and maintained by a school are “education records” under FERPA.
- Parents or eligible students have the right to request that a school correct records which they believe to be inaccurate or misleading. If the school decides not to amend the record, the parent or eligible student then has the right to a formal hearing. After the hearing, if the school still decides not to amend the record, the parent or eligible student has the right to place a statement with the record setting forth his or her view about the contested information.
- Generally, schools must have written permission from the parent or eligible student in order to release any information from a student's education record. However, FERPA allows schools to disclose those records, without consent, to the following parties or under the following conditions (34 CFR § 99.31):
- School officials with legitimate educational interest;
- Other schools to which a student is transferring;
- Specified officials for audit or evaluation purposes;
- Appropriate parties in connection with financial aid to a student;
- Organizations conducting certain studies for or on behalf of the school;
- Accrediting organizations;
- To comply with a judicial order or lawfully issued subpoena;
- Appropriate officials in cases of health and safety emergencies; and
- State and local authorities, within a juvenile justice system, pursuant to specific State law.
Schools may disclose, without consent, "directory" information such as a student's name, address, telephone number, date and place of birth, honors and awards, and dates of attendance. However, schools must tell parents and eligible students about directory information and allow parents and eligible students a reasonable amount of time to request that the school not disclose directory information about them. Schools must notify parents and eligible students annually of their rights under FERPA. The actual means of notification (special letter, inclusion in a PTA bulletin, student handbook, or newspaper article) is left to the discretion of each school.