Back To CourseFERPA Training for Educators
3 chapters | 17 lessons
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.
There are several legitimate reasons a school may need to disclose a student's records. Those legitimate educational purposes may include reasons that are exempt from protections under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). If those records are disclosed to a third party, that third party must protect the integrity of those records as though they were the primary record holder. This third-party use of student records is called disclosure, and if that third party discloses those records to yet another individual, agency or organization, this constitutes a redisclosure and is governed by strict regulations under FERPA.
When the school is outsourcing educational needs through contractors, volunteers, consultants, tutoring agencies or other service providers, the school and the outside sourcing institution must both ensure that the records are kept confidential. The third party must be held accountable to the same standard of protection under FERPA as those generating the original records.
Only those individuals who have a legitimate educational interest that has been identified by the original school record holder can have access to any identifiable information regarding those students. For example, let's say a school provides records with identifying information to a tutoring agency for the purpose of improving student test scores. Disclosure of those student records to the tutoring agency requires assurances and privacy protections to those students when that agency then discloses that student data to individual tutors working for the agency. While the tutors may have access to their students' records, those tutors are held to the same standard of privacy as though they were the original record holder within the school, even if they are employed by a commercial for-profit agency under contract by the school.
Tutoring is an example of a pretty clear indication of legitimate educational need to access those records. Where redisclosure needs to be most protected is in cases of access that may not necessarily be directly educationally related. For example, redisclosure requests may come from fundraising for the school, financial aid office, information and technology services for tech support, insurance companies providing student discounts, student loan debt collection services, and employers' verification of credentials. School officials are responsible for ensuring the confidentiality in this redisclosure of records. This rule against redisclosure prevents outside companies from designating themselves as school officials for the purpose of marketing or other unauthorized purposes.
Another example of a controlled redisclosure of student records is through law enforcement. While campus police as employees of the university may have access to student records, these records may not be disclosed to outside law enforcement officers without a subpoena. This provides assurance that the direct control of those records remains with the school unless ordered by a judge. For example, let's say a student commits a crime off campus and is being investigated by the local police department. Those officers may not request disclosure of student disciplinary records for events that have occurred on campus without a court order or subpoena. Not only would this violate FERPA, but it would also violate the protections against unreasonable search and seizure or self-incrimination. Campus police officers are school officials that have legitimate educational access to student records, while community police officers are government officials who do not have a legitimate reason to access student records without a subpoena or written consent from the student.
Frequently researchers conducting studies about educational programming efficacy or auditing service providers may request records under the legitimate educational use exemption from FERPA. Sometimes researchers use case studies of individual student experiences to illustrate examples of their research results. This kind of redisclosure of information is protected by FERPA and any case study examples must be deidentified before being disclosed in the research conclusions to anyone who reads the study. For example, let's say a student exemplifies the statistical finding in a study that uses anonymous aggregated data. A researcher hoping to make this data more accessible to the reader may want to use a specific case study of that student to bolster the statistical findings, making the research more accessible and digestible. That researcher is redisclosing information about the student through that study and will need to take steps to ensure the student's privacy is not violated.
In this lesson, we discussed what it means to redisclose student records to third parties that may or may not have a legitimate educational purpose. When data about students is released to those who are not considered school officials, that data must be protected from identifying individual students who have not provided written consent to allow third parties to disclose their identities. Some of the common examples of these third-party redisclosures may include outsourcing to those providing legitimate educational services like tutoring agencies. Companies providing debt collection, tech support student discount or other marketing interests require strict oversight for the redisclosure of information. Redisclosure requests between campus and local law enforcement officers may represent violations of civil liberties, as well as protections under FERPA. Researchers who hope to use the redisclosure of records to illustrate their research results must take extra care in protecting the privacy of those students involved in the study.
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Back To CourseFERPA Training for Educators
3 chapters | 17 lessons
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