Confidentiality & Privacy Concerns Under FERPA

Instructor: Della McGuire

Della has been teaching secondary and adult education for over 20 years. She holds a BS in Sociology, MEd in Reading, and is ABD on the MComm in Storytelling.

FERPA regulations are meant to keep student records private and confidential. This lesson discusses FERPA policies, and the procedures and practices institutions must follow if they're subject to FERPA.

Confidentiality and Privacy

If you don't like the notion of someone poking around in your medicine cabinet or going through your mail or checking your closet for your clothing size, you can understand why lawmakers pass regulations that protect privacy and confidentiality. In the case of FERPA--the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act--the regulations are meant to protect the privacy of students.

Confidentiality refers to the obligation not to disclose information to unauthorized third parties.

Privacy is a personal right protecting an individual from intrusion into personal information.

A student has the right to privacy regarding educational records, and the school has the duty to maintain the confidentiality of those private records. FERPA tries to prevent any old person from nosing into students' school records. It's up to schools to make sure students' records are kept confidential.

What is FERPA?

FERPA stands for Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, and it includes a variety of regulations aimed at protecting the privacy of students. All schools that receive funding from the United States Department of Education are required to know and abide by these regulations. Schools not in compliance with FERPA can face serious consequences that may include investigations and auditing, compliance implementation planning, and possibly funding sanctions. Schools, districts, or individual staff members can face the consequences of FERPA violations. The Family Policy Compliance Office is responsible for investigating these violations. Schools must have policies and procedures in place to ensure that student privacy is upheld. All school staff should be trained to comply with FERPA.

Student Records

Under FERPA, parents or students have the right to access and maintain some control over the disclosure of a student's educational records. When students are minors, only legal custodial parents or guardians have this right of access and control of FERPA-protected records. These guardians can be identified by court documentation and by the dependents filed on a tax return. The right transfers from parents to student when a student turns 18 or begins college.

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