Family Educational Rights & Privacy Act (FERPA) Exceptions

Instructor: Yolanda Reinoso Barzallo

Yolanda holds a CELTA Cambridge, a Juris Doctorate, and a Master of Public Administration. She is a published author of fiction in Spanish.

This lesson discusses the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) and summarizes the exceptional situations in which schools are allowed to release students' information to parties other than parents.

The Rule

First, let's learn about the rule under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). This law's objective is to ensure that the school information that pertains to a child under 18 years of age is not released without consent of parents or legal guardians. Thus, the rule is that the release of information by schools to others requires consent from parents or legal guardians. However, there are four exceptions when such consent is not needed. Let's navigate the exceptions along with some practical examples.

First Exception: Directory Information

First, it is important to define directory information. This is any piece of information that allows anyone to identify a person. Under FERPA, any of the following information about the student constitutes 'directory information':

  • Name
  • Address
  • Phone number
  • Email
  • Photograph
  • Date and place of birth
  • Major field of study
  • Grade level
  • Enrollment status
  • Dates of attendance
  • Participation in official events and sports
  • Weight and height of athletes
  • Degrees, honors and awards received

You may wonder why all this information about a student could be released. The reason is that it is not generally considered harmful information, and its release does not violate privacy. However, because it is still personal information about a minor, schools can release it only if they have given the following to parents of students who currently attend a school:

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