Buckley Amendment to the Family Educational Rights & Privacy Act of 1974

Instructor: Christine Serva

Christine has an M.A. in American Studies. She is an instructional designer, educator, and writer with a particular interest in the social sciences and American studies.

This lesson provides an overview of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, also known as the Buckley Amendment. You'll come away with a sense of how this law impacts teachers, administrators, and students.

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act

Kylie is a brand new assistant teacher in the school system assigned to work with fifth graders. Her fellow teacher, James, has noticed that Kylie doesn't seem to remember her training in the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) also known as the Buckley Amendment.

Originally established in 1974 after backing by Senator James Buckley, FERPA is a federal law that describes how the educational records of students are to be treated, particularly as it relates to confidentiality and privacy. The law also covers the rights of students and parents to review these records.

This lesson gives examples of this law using the story of Kylie, who is not following the rules, and James, a more experienced teacher who helps her learn more about it.

Rights of Parents and Students

Kylie's first mistake comes when a parent arrives at the school requesting to review her fifth-grade child's educational record. Instead of directing the parent to follow the process for accessing the student's record, Kylie turns the parent away, explaining that the student's record is private and that no one except teachers and administrators can see it.

Luckily, James is close by and corrects the situation, directing the parent to where she can access the student's record. James explains to Kylie that, due to FERPA, parents and guardians have this right to review their children's educational records and to identify if there are any problems with it, such as inaccuracies or misleading statements.

Kylie understands and wonders what will happen if the parent does find something that's incorrect. She asks James, 'Can the parent change the record themselves?'

James explains that there is a process by which a parent can request a hearing. Parents can't simply alter records on their own. The parents or guardians need to follow a procedure.

'What if a school doesn't offer a hearing?' Kylie wonders.

James answers that programs that received educational funding must follow FERPA guidelines, such as the need to offer hearings like this. A risk of not following the rules is that the school could lose its funding.

On the flip side, at a college level, Kylie would be required to restrict access to a parent since a student at that level is the one to dictate who can see his or her records. At a fifth-grade level, however, Kylie should point the parent toward how and where she can review her child's record instead of turning her away.

Keeping Educational Records Private

Another day, James comes into Kylie's classroom to see a few things that shouldn't be happening. First of all, Kylie has gone to lunch with her computer screen still showing student information, along with paper files of student records sitting on her desk. Secondly, Kylie has posted the results of student's standardized test scores on the wall for everyone to see. When Kylie gets back from lunch, James explains to her what's wrong with this picture.

The student information and test scores are examples of information protected under the Buckley Amendment and need to be kept private. This means that scores should not be made public, and any computer or paper files must not be accessible to those who should not have access. The law also limits teachers from discussing a student's progress with any other student.

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