What is FERPA?
The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) (20 U.S.C. § 1232g; 34 CFR Part 99) is a Federal law that protects the privacy of student education records. The law applies to all schools/school districts that receive funds under an applicable program of the U.S. Department of Education.
Who is protected under FERPA?
Students who are currently or formerly enrolled, regardless of their age or status in regard to parental dependency, are protected. Parents of students termed as "dependent" for income tax purposes may have access to the student's education records.
What rights does FERPA afford students with respect to their education records?
- The right to inspect and review their education records within 45 days of the day the school/school district receives a request for access.
- The right to request an amendment to the student's education records that the student believes are inaccurate or misleading.
- The right to consent to disclosures of personally identifiable information contained in the student's education records, except to the extent that FERPA authorizes disclosure without consent.
- The right to file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education concerning alleged failures by the school/school district to comply with the requirements of FERPA.
What is an education record?An “education record” is any record that is:
Education records include any records in whatever medium (handwritten, print, magnetic tape, film, diskette, computer media, etc.) that are in the possession of any school/school district official. A student has the right of access to these records.
- directly related to a student; and
- maintained by an educational agency or institution, or by a party acting for the agency or institution.
What is not considered an education record?
- Sole possession records or private notes held by school/school district officials that are not accessible or released to other personnel;
- Law enforcement or security records that are solely for law enforcement purposes and maintained solely by the law enforcement unit;
- Records relating to individuals who are employed by the institution (unless the employment is contingent on their status as a student);
- Financial information submitted by parents;
- Records relating to treatment provided by a physician, psychiatrist, psychologist, or other recognized professional or paraprofessional and disclosed only to individuals providing treatment;
- Records of an institution that contain information about an individual obtained only after that person is no longer a student at that institution, i.e., alumni records;
- Education records containing information about more than one student; however, in such cases the institution must permit access to that part of the record which pertains only to the inquiring student.
What is directory information?
Institutions may disclose information on a student without violating FERPA if it has designated that information as directory information, unless the student has signed and submitted a written request to restrict the release of directory information. Directory information may include, but is not limited to:
- Phone number
- Birth date
- Place of birth
- Country of citizenship
- School enrollment or location of attendance
- Level and year in school
- Participation in officially recognized activities and sports
- Weight and height of members of athletics teams
- Dates of attendance
- Degrees, honors, scholarships, and awards received
- Names of a student's parents or guardians
- Photographs, videos, or images
When is the student’s written consent not required to disclose information?
When the disclosure is:
- To the student;
- To school/school district officials who have a legitimate educational interest;
- To federal, state, and local authorities involving an audit or evaluation of compliance with educational programs;
- In connection with financial aid;
- To organizations conducting studies for or on behalf of educational institutions;
- To accrediting organizations;
- To parents of dependent students;
- To comply with a judicial order or subpoena;
- In a health or safety emergency;
- Releasing directory information, except as excluded by the student;
- Releasing the results of a disciplinary hearing to an alleged victim of a crime of violence;
- To a parent of a student under the age of twenty-one who has violated school regulations pertaining to the use or possession of alcohol or a controlled substance;
- Releasing the results of a disciplinary hearing related to a crime of violence to anyone, when the student is found to have committed a violation of the school's rules or policies.
What defines a "school/school district official" and "legitimate educational interest"?
- School/school district officials are those individuals who engage in the instructional, supervisory, advisory, administrative, governance, public safety, and support functions of the school/school district. They need not necessarily be paid employees of the school/school district.
- Legitimate educational interest is when a school/school district official requires a student's educational record in the course of performing his or her duties for the school/school district.