The U.S. Department of Education has released final regulations that amend the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).
The changes to FERPA regulations are aimed at improving access to data, which will help states evaluate educational programs, allocate limited resources, increase accountability and transparency, and support a culture of innovation and continuous educational improvement.
FERPA is a federal law that protects the privacy of student education records. The law applies to all schools that receive federal funds. FERPA gives parents certain rights with respect to their children’s education records, and those rights transfer to the student when he or she reaches the age of 18 or attends a school beyond the high school level.
Parents or eligible students have the right to inspect and review the student’s education records maintained by the school. Schools are not required to provide copies of records unless, for reasons such as great distance, it is impossible for parents or eligible students to review the records. Schools may charge a fee for copies.
Parents or eligible students have the right to request that a school correct records which they believe to be inaccurate or misleading. If the school decides not to amend the record, the parent or eligible student then has the right to a formal hearing. After the hearing, if the school still decides not to amend the record, the parent or eligible student has the right to place a statement with the record setting forth his or her view about the contested information.
Generally, schools must have written permission from the parent or eligible student to release any information from a student’s education record. However, FERPA allows schools to disclose those records, without consent, to the following parties or under the following conditions:
- school officials with legitimate educational interest
- other schools to which a student is transferring
- specified officials for audit or evaluation purposes
- appropriate parties in connection with financial aid to a student
- organizations conducting certain studies for or on behalf of the school
- accrediting organizations
- to comply with a judicial order or lawfully issued subpoena
- appropriate officials in cases of health and safety emergencies
- state and local authorities, within a juvenile justice system, pursuant to specific state law
Schools may disclose, without consent, “directory” information such as a student’s name, address, telephone number, date and place of birth, honors and awards, and dates of attendance. However, schools must tell parents and eligible students about directory information and allow parents and eligible students a reasonable amount of time to request that the school not disclose directory information about them.
Schools must notify parents and eligible students annually of their rights under FERPA. The actual means of notification (special letter, inclusion in a PTA bulletin, student handbook or newspaper article) is left to the discretion of each school.
See details on FERPA at http://www2.ed.gov/policy/gen/guid/fpco/ferpa/index.html.