Schools have an obligation to protect their students. Different laws determine how schools should protect students. One such law is the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974, or FERPA. FERPA protects sensitive student information. It determines how schools can share information with other people. There are two types of information: educational records and directory information. It’s crucial that schools understand regulations regarding FERPA and student records.


FERPA and Student Records

Educational records include information connected to a student. FERPA designates transcripts, GPA, grades, SSN, attendance records, and academic and psychological evaluations as educational information. FERPA considers any files including such information to be educational records. This means the school can’t share these documents without permission from the student or parent. 


FERPA and Directory Information

A student’s educational records also include directory information. However, this isn’t considered educational information. FERPA classifies information as directory if it wouldn’t harm the student if made public. Schools can share this kind of information as long as they inform parents and students ahead of time. The school must provide a way to opt out before the school can release the information. If the student or parent doesn’t opt-out, then the school can legally share the information. 


Who Can Access Educational Records?

Once a student turns 18, only the student has the right to access their records. In most cases, the school needs consent to share the student’s educational records. However, there are some exceptions. For example, the school may share records for research. The researchers cannot share them. Also, they must destroy them later. The school may share records with law enforcement officials with a court order and case workers who are legally responsible for the student. Neither law enforcement officials or caseworkers are allowed to share this information. 


What Happens If There Is a FERPA Violation?

If a student or parent feels that a school violated their rights under FERPA, then they can file a complaint. The Family Policy Compliance Office will work with the school until they conform with the law. For example, in 2017 a parent filed a complaint against Success Academy. She claimed the school released disciplinary information about her son without consent. In 2019, the Deputy Director sent a letter to the school saying that the school did violate FERPA. The letter stated that the school must provide training for school officials within 30 days of receipt. 


Text by Linda Hunt


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