Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA)
This is a general guideline of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) for Parents and Eligible Students. For a more detailed explanation, and frequently asked questions please visit the Department of Education website at www.ed.gov.
What is FERPA?
Under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), parents or eligible students have the right to request any education record, including grades, performance, requests for amendments, and control over how these documentations are publicly shared.
FERPA only applies to educational institutions that currently receive funding from the Department of Education.
What constitutes an “Eligible Student”?
Once the student becomes 18 years of age or is enrolled in a post-secondary institution, regardless of age, they become an “eligible student” and have the right of privacy transfers from the parent to the eligible student. As an eligible student, they maintain the right over disclosure of their educational records, requests for amendments, and public disclosure to third-parties, as allowed by FERPA, and the right to file a complaint with the Department of Education.
Access to Educational Records
Under the FERPA policy, a school must provide a parent or eligible student with their education records within 45 days of request for documents. The school must provide the parent or eligible student with the requested documents or make special arrangements if the parent or eligible student is not within a commuting distance from the school.
Under FERPA, documents such as academic calendars, extra-curricular activities, and course syllabi are not considered education records.
Per FERPA guidelines, a school is not required to provide information that is not maintained or create an education record upon request from the parent or eligible student. Schools are not required to update parents or eligible students on progress in a course or school unless said education record already exists.
Unless requested by a parent or eligible student, or there is an outstanding request made, under FERPA, schools have the right to maintain and destroy records according to their protocol without notifying the parent or eligible student.
Amendment of Education Records
Under the FERPA policy, parents and eligible students have the right to request an amendment of any inaccurate or misleading information in their education record. Parents andeligible students may not request an amendment to a grade, an opinion, or a substantive decision made by a school. FERPA is designed to ensure accurate and fair record keeping of the school and to prohibit schools from overriding the accepted practices and procedures for making academic assessments, disciplinary rulings, and academic placement.
While the school is not required to make any such requested amendments, they are required to consider the request. If the school declines the amendment requested by the parent or eligible student, they are required to inform the parent or eligible student of their right to a hearing. If after a hearing is held and the school does not make the requested amendment, the parent or eligible student has the right to submit a statement letter on the issue. Said document will be inserted to the file and will be kept attached for as long as the file is maintained by the school.
Disclosure of Education Records
Under FERPA, a school is not allowed to generally disclose any personal identifying information of a minor or eligible student without the express written consent of the parent or eligible student. In some cases, schools are permitted to disclose information non-consensually to third-parties. Below is a list of cases where schools may disclose personal identifiable information, without consent of the parent or eligible student.
- School officials, including teachers, can be granted access to the student’s education records and personal identifiable information if the school deems it as a “legitimate school interest.” School officials can refer to instructors, health staff, clerical staff, counselors, attorneys, disciplinary boards, trustees, or any other third-party who has outsourced institutional services or functions. Schools must inform parents and eligible students, annually in their FERPA Rights updates, what constitutes a “school official” and a “legitimate school interest.”
- Another circumstance is if the student is transferring or enrolling into another school. Parents or eligible students can request a copy of the records being sent.
- Under FERPA, schools can disclose personal identifiable information if it applies to financial aid (applied for or received) for attendance to the school. Information is meant to determine eligibility for aid, amount of financial aid granted, terms and conditions of aid, and enforcement of terms and conditions of the financial aid granted.
- Personal identifiable information and education records of an eligible student can be sent to his or her parents, without consent, if said student has been claimed as a dependent on either parent’s federal income tax forms.
- In some post-secondary institutions, education records of the eligible student can be sent to the parents, non-consensually, in the case of a health or safety emergency, regardless if the eligible student is claimed as a dependent on their parent’s federal tax forms.
- Under FERPA, schools can disclose said personal information of education records of eligible students to parents in cases where the eligible student has violated any local, State, or Federal law; or has been caught with use and/or possession of a controlled substance or alcohol under the age of 21.
Another case where information on an eligible or minor student may be publicly disclosed, without consent, is for “directory information.” This type of information includes items, such as, name, area of study, class year and level (junior, senior), height and weight on an athletic team, birthdate, extracurricular activities, degrees and awards received, birthdate, telephone listing, email address, dates of attendance, and enrollment status.
Other instances where the minor or eligible student may have personal identifiable information of education records posted without consent is briefly listed below:
- For audits made by the government for an evaluation of supported institutions;
- To organizations auditing schools for or on behalf to evaluate predictive testing, student aid programs, or evaluation of curriculum;
- To comply with a judicial order;
- To the victim of an alleged perpetrator of a violent crime or a non-forcible sex offense for a hearing with respect to the alleged crime; and,
- Information to any third-party the results of said hearing if the alleged perpetrator is found in violation of a crime or school policy with respect to: name of alleged perpetrator, violation committed, and any sanction taken place. The name of the victim, or any witness may not be published without their consent.
Annual Notification Rights
Schools must notify parents and eligible students of their FERPA rights. Information must be provided to parents and eligible students of their rights to inspect, review and amend education records, types of information that may be disclosed without consent, and the right to file a complaint.It must also define what constitutes a “school official” and a “legitimate educational interest.”Under FERPA, schools are not required to notify parents and eligible students individually of these rights. Rather, they may be posted by any means including:
- • School Website
- • Directory
- • Student Handbook
- • School Paper
- • A central location or posting
- • A class schedule or calender