Student Rights: Discrimination, Harassment & Privacy

Instructor: Kerry Gray

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

Federal legislators have passed laws that ensure the rights of students to be protected against discrimination and harassment. Further, education officials are mandated by law to keep educational records and personal information about students confidential. In this lesson, we will discuss federal legislation that protects student's rights.


Teachers and schools have an enormous responsibility to educate students socially and academically, serve as leaders within the community, and preserve the civil rights of all students. Each state has its own legislation that teachers need to familiarize themselves with, and there is also federal legislation to guide school officials. Let's take a closer look at some of the federal legislation that governs schools.

Gender and Racial Equality

What are some examples of inequality that you see in media, politics, and business? As efforts are made to decrease the disparities that still exist, legislators seek to make sure that all students have the same opportunities in school.

One of the areas that legislation has addressed is difference in which girls and boys are treated. Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 addresses gender discrimination by prohibiting inequality in a variety of school settings. Specifically, Title IX addresses sexual harassment, athletic opportunity, STEM courses, and discrimination based on pregnancy.

Legislation is also in place to protect the rights of minorities. Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination based on race, color, or national origin in programs or activities receiving federal financial assistance. Title VI protects students against racial harassment and segregation, but also protects students who are English language learners against denial of language services.

Laws Protecting Disabled Students

What other groups are entitled to protection under federal legislation? The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) provides equal access to a free and appropriate public education for all disabled students. Procedural safeguards exist to guarantee that all students receive the same benefits of public education regardless of disabilities. Part B of IDEA outlines the expectations of schools to service qualified students from three until twenty-two years of age. Parent's rights and the school's responsibility to identify and serve disabled students is also part of IDEA.

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act prohibits discrimination based on disability in any program or activity that is subsidized by federal funds. Under Section 504, all students with a physical or mental impairment that affects one or more major life activities qualifies for services. Therefore, students with Attention Deficit Disorder, mental illness, or health issues may receive services even though they have not been identified as eligible for special education services. Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits discrimination based on disabilities for all public companies, including educational facilities.

Rights to Privacy

Some legislation protects the rights of all students, such as FERPA. The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) protects the confidentiality of student's education records. Parents have rights until the student reaches the age of eighteen, and then rights are transferred to the child. According to FERPA, parents and students have the right to review the student's educational records. Schools are not required to provide copies of the records and may charge a fee if they are asked to make copies. Parents and students have the right to request that the school changes anything in the school records that they believe to be inaccurate or misleading. 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.

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