Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA)

Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act

What is FERPA?
The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) (20 U.S.C. § 1232g; 34 CFR Part 99) is a Federal law that protects the privacy of student education records. The law applies to all schools/school districts that receive funds under an applicable program of the U.S. Department of Education.

FERPA gives parents certain rights with respect to their children's education records. These rights transfer to the student when he or she reaches the age of 18 or attends a school beyond the high school level. Students to whom the rights have transferred are "eligible students."

What rights does FERPA afford students with respect to their education records?
  • The right to inspect and review their education records within 45 days of the day the school/school district receives a request for access.
  • The right to request an amendment to the student's education records that the student believes are inaccurate or misleading.
  • The right to provide written consent before the school discloses personally identifiable information (PII) from the student's education records, except to the extent that FERPA authorizes disclosure without consent.
  • The right to file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education concerning alleged failures by the school/school district to comply with the requirements of FERPA.  The name and address of the Office that administers FERPA are:

    Student Privacy Policy Office
    U.S. Department of Education
    400 Maryland Avenue, SW
    Washington, DC  20202

What is an education record?
An “education record” is any record that is:

  1. directly related to a student; and
  2. maintained by an educational agency or institution, or by a party acting for the agency or institution.
    Education records include:
    1. Date and place of birth, parent(s) and /or guardian(s) addresses, and where parents/guardians can be contacted in emergencies.
    2. Grades, test scores, courses taken, academic specializations and activities, and official letters regarding a student’s status in school. 
    3. Special education records.
    4. Disciplinary records.
    5. Medical and health records that the school creates or collects and maintains.
    6. Documentation of attendance, schools attended, courses taken, awards conferred and degrees earned. 
    7. Personally identifiable information such as a student’s identification code, social security number, picture, or other information that would make it easy to identify or locate a student


What is not considered an education record?

  1. Personal notes made by teachers and other school officials that are kept in the sole possession of the maker, are used only as a personal memory aid, and are not shared with others. 
  2. Law enforcement records created and maintained by a school’s or a district’s law enforcement unit specifically for law enforcement purposes (as distinct from student disciplinary and other non-law enforcement purposes). 
  3. Records on students 18 years of age or older that are made or maintained by a medical or other recognized professional or paraprofessional acting in his or her professional capacity, as long as the records are used only in connection with the treatment of the student and are disclosed only to treatment providers (for these purposes, “treatment” does not include activities that are part of the school’s program of instruction). 
  4. Records created or received after an individual is no longer a student in attendance and that are not directly related to the individual’s attendance as a student. 
  5. Grades on peer-graded papers before they are collected and recorded by a teacher. 
  6. Directory Information

What is directory information?
Institutions may disclose information on a student without violating FERPA if it has designated that information as directory information.  If a parent/guardian or eligible student does not consent to the automatic release of directory information, the parent/guardian or eligible student must, on an annual basis, sign a form opting-out of the automatic release of any directory information.  Directory information may include, but is not limited to:

  1. Students name
  2. Address.
  3. Telephone listing.
  4. Electronic mail address.
  5. Photograph.
  6. Date and place of birth.
  7. Primary field of study.
  8. Dates of attendance.
  9. Grade level.
  10. Participation in officially recognized activities and sports.
  11. Weight and height of members of athletic teams.
  12. Degree, honors, and awards received.
  13. The most recent educational agency or institution attended.
  14. Student ID number, user ID, or other unique personal identifier used to communicate in electronic systems that cannot be used to access educations without a PIN, password, etc. (A student’s SSN, in whole or in part, cannot be used for this purpose.)

When is the student’s written consent not required to disclose information?
When the disclosure is:

  • To school officials, including teachers, with a legitimate need to review an education record in order to fulfill their professional responsibilities. 
  • To officials of another school or school system in which the student seeks or intends to enroll.
  • To authorities named in FERPA and accompanying federal regulations, including authorized representatives of the Comptroller General of the United States, Secretary of Education, and state and local educational authorities.
  • To officials connected with a student’s application for a receipt of financial aid.
  • To state and local officials who are required to get specific information pursuant to state law if the disclosure concerns the juvenile justice system and the system’s ability to effectively serve the student whose records are released. 
  • To educational testing and research organizations for the purpose of administering student aid programs or improving instruction or predictive tests as long as confidentiality is maintained and such organizations are required to destroy records after they no longer are needed.
  • To accrediting institutions.
  • In emergency situations to appropriate persons if the information is necessary to protect the health and safety of the student or others.
  • To anyone if required by a court order or subpoena. 
  • To a caseworker or other representative of a State or local child welfare agency authorized to access a student’s case plan when such agency or organization is legally responsible, in accordance with State law, for the care and protection of the student. 
    Pursuant to a judicial order without requiring additional notice to the parent/guardian by the educational agency or institution in specified types of judicial proceedings in which a parent/guardian is involved.

What defines a "school/school district official" and "legitimate educational interest"?

  • A school official is a person employed by the District as an administrator, supervisor, instructor, or support staff member (including health or medical staff and law enforcement unit personnel);
  • A person serving on the Board of Education;
  • A person or company with whom the District has contracted to perform a special task (such as an attorney, auditor, medical consultant or therapist).
  • Legitimate educational interest is when a school/school district official requires a student’s educational record in the course of performing his or her duties for the school/school district.
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