Video Recordings & Online Information 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.

In this lesson, we will discuss how surveillance footage, video recordings and online information must be treated under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act.

Say Cheese!

Schools are increasingly implementing video monitoring with security cameras to maintain safety among students. While FERPA rules for protecting student privacy do not specifically address surveillance camera usage, schools should have a policy that reflects best practices in order to avoid privacy violations of students. Additionally, videos and photographs may be considered part of a student's educational record and have disclosure rules under FERPA before posting online or sharing with others.

Schools should notify students which areas are under surveillance.
camera sign

General Guidelines

Most commonly, cameras are used in places that are not violations of student privacy like building exteriors and parking lots or hallways and classrooms. Because having bathroom cameras is a clear violation of privacy, these are common locations for bullying and other behavior that violates school rules. Therefore, bathrooms should instead be monitored without using cameras. For example, controversial legislation about bathroom use has resulted in increases in incidents of violent assaults in schools, even though the intention of these misguided laws might have been to protect students from violence.

Sometimes teachers like to use videos and photographs of their students to share with parents to promote engagement and involvement. If these videos are shared online, extra caution should be taken to ensure confidentiality and privacy of the other students in the class. For example, suppose a teacher makes a video of several group presentations and sends those videos to each parent. Because a parent will receive a video with several other students besides their own child, this may represent a violation of FERPA. Certainly, such videos or group photographs should not be posted on the internet through unsecure sites like Facebook. Schools should also send informed consent documents to get permission from parents to photograph or videotape their children.

There are a few basic guidelines for using surveillance cameras in the other common areas of the school. Let's take a look at some of the policies that schools should employ when using cameras in the school.

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