FERPA for Teachers: Laws & Guidelines

Instructor: Kerry Gray

Kerry has been a teacher and an administrator for more than twenty years. She has a Master of Education degree.

In this lesson, we will discuss the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). We will review the degree to which this legislation protects the privacy of student educational records, as well as the circumstances under which student information may be released.

Federal Legislation

You're in high school, and it's your last year. Much of your academic life has been focused on grades, but you don't necessarily want everyone in the world to know those grades. That's private information.

Students, as well as parents of students, have a right to privacy in terms of school records. Who determines these rights? While most of the legislation regarding schools comes from each state government, there are some pieces of federal legislation that protect the rights of students and parents. The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) of 1974 protects the confidentiality of student's education records if the student belongs to a school eligible for federal funds. Let's learn more about FERPA.

Right to View Records

Who has the right to privacy? Until a student reaches the age of eighteen, rights to privacy are provided to parents. On the student's eighteenth birthday, or if they begin attending a school at a higher level than high school, rights are transferred to the child.

According to FERPA, parents or eligible students have the right to view the student's educational records. However, schools are not required to make copies of the records and may charge a fee for this service. Upon reviewing the records, parents or students of legal age have the right to request that the school change anything they feel is inaccurate or misleading. Upon investigation, if the school concludes that the records should not be changed, the student or parent has the right to attach a statement to the record that explains their perspective.

Records Without Written Permission

Another way that FERPA protects the rights of students and parents is by requiring schools to obtain written permission from the parent or student to release records. However, there are some exceptions to this requirement. Who may view student records without permission?

  • Student records may be shared with school officials with legitimate, educational interest.
  • Schools may send records to other schools to which the student transfers.
  • Official auditors may review student records.
  • Financial aid services may be provided information about students.
  • Organizations that are hired by the school district to conduct studies for the school may access records.
  • Accrediting organizations may review student records.
  • Records may be released by judicial order to state and local authorities.
  • Emergency health and safety officials may be provided with student records.

Say Kendra has finished her first year at Community College and wishes to transfer to a State University. This university is more expensive, so she applies for financial aid. Her stepmother, whom Kendra does not get along, is skeptical of her choice of transfer, and wonders how Kendra is getting along in her grades. In which situations would FERPA allow access to Kendra's records?

FERPA allows that the University be allowed access to Kendra's school records without written permission, as that is a transfer situation and an exception to the written permission rule. Same goes for financial aid request. However, as Karen is 19, she has full rights to her records, and her stepmother may not have access unless Karen gives written permission - which in this case is not likely!

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