Privacy, Please: FERPA Issues Impacting K-12 Public Schools

by Husch Blackwell LLP
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The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) is a federal law that gives parents, students over 18, and postsecondary students the right to access education records, the right to seek to amend those records, and the right to consent to disclosure of personally identifiable information in the records, except as provided by law. The authors of this post recently presented on this topic as part of the webinar series for clients and members of the Council of Great City Schools

Key Provisions

“No federal funds shall be made available under any applicable program to any educational agency or institution which has a policy or practice of releasing, or providing access to, any personally identifiable information in education records other than directory information, or as is permitted under paragraph 1 of this subsection, unless there is written consent from the student’s parents specifying records to be released, the reasons for such release, and to whom, and with a copy of the records to be released to the student’s parents and the student if desired by the parents.”  20 U.S.C.§1232g(b)(2)(A).

“[W]henever a student has attained eighteen years of age, or is attending an institution of postsecondary education, the permission or consent required of and the rights accorded to the parents of the student shall thereafter only be required of and accorded to the student.” 20 U.S.C. §1232g(d).

Practical Do’s and Don’ts

  • DO NOT display student scores or grades publicly in association with names, student identification numbers or other personal identifiers. If scores or grades are posted, use only a code known to you and the individual student.
  • DO NOT put papers containing student names and grades in publicly accessible places. Students are not to have access to the scores and grades of others.
  • DO NOT share educational record information with other faculty or staff members of the school, unless their official responsibilities identify their “legitimate educational interest” in that information for that student.
  • DO NOT share educational record information with others outside the institution, including letters of recommendation, without written consent from the student or parent.
  • DO NOT request information from the educational record custodian without a legitimate educational interest and the appropriate authority to do so.
  • DO refer requests for information from the educational record of a student to the proper educational record custodian.
  • DO keep any sole possession records relating to individual students separate from their educational records.
  • DO keep only those educational records necessary for meeting your responsibilities.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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