The Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) is a federal law that applies to educational agencies and institutions that receive funding under a program administered by the U. S. Department of Education. The statute is found at 20 U.S.C. § 1232g and the department’s regulations are found at 34 CFR Part 99.
Under FERPA, schools must generally afford students who are 18 years or over, or attending a postsecondary institution:
- Access to their education records
- An opportunity to seek to have the records amended
- Some control over the disclosure of information from the records.
Access to Education Records
Schools are required by FERPA to:
- Provide a student with an opportunity to inspect and review his or her education records within 45 days of the receipt of a request;
- Provide a student with copies of education records or otherwise make the records available to the student if the student, for instance, lives outside of commuting distance of the school;
- Redact the names and other personally identifiable information about other students that may be included in the student’s education records.
Schools are not required by FERPA to:
- Create or maintain education records;
- Provide students with calendars, notices, or other information which does not generally contain information directly related to the student;
- Respond to questions about the student.
Under FERPA, a school must:
- Consider a request from a student to amend inaccurate or misleading information in the student’s education records;
- Offer the student a hearing on the matter if it decides not to amend the records in accordance with the request;
- Offer the student a right to place a statement to be kept and disclosed with the record if, as a result of the hearing, the school still decides not to amend the record.
A school is not required to consider requests for amendment under FERPA that:
- Seek to change a grade or disciplinary decision;
- Seek to change the opinions or reflections of a school official or other person reflected in an education record.
Disclosure of Education Records
A school must:
- Have a student’s consent prior to the disclosure of education records;
- Ensure that the consent is signed and dated and states the purpose of the disclosure.
A school MAY disclose education records without consent when:
- The disclosure is to school officials who have been determined to have legitimate educational interests as set forth in the institution’s annual notification of rights to students;
- The student is seeking or intending to enroll in another school;
- The disclosure is to state or local educational authorities auditing or enforcing federal or state supported education programs or enforcing federal laws which relate to those programs;
- The disclosure is to the parents of a student who is a dependent for income tax purposes;
- The disclosure is in connection with determining eligibility, amounts, and terms for financial aid or enforcing the terms and conditions of financial aid;
- The disclosure is pursuant to a lawfully issued court order or subpoena; or
- The information disclosed has been appropriately designated as directory information by the school.
A school must annually notify students in attendance that they may:
- Inspect and review their education records;
- Seek amendment of inaccurate or misleading information in their education records;
- Consent to most disclosures of personally identifiable information from education records.
The annual notice must also include:
- Information for a student to file a complaint of an alleged violation with the Family Policy Compliance Office (FPCO);
- A description of who is considered to be a school official and what is considered to be a legitimate educational interest so that information may be shared with that individual; and
- Information about whom to contact to seek access or amendment of education records.
Means of notification:
- Can include student newspaper, calendar, student programs guide, rules handbook, or other means reasonably likely to inform students.
- Notification does not have to be made individually to students.
Complaints of Alleged Violations
- Be timely submitted not later than 180 days from the date the student learned of the circumstances of the alleged violation;
- Contain specific allegations of fact giving reasonable cause to believe that a violation has occurred, including:
- Relevant dates, such as the date of a request or a disclosure and the date the student learned of the alleged violation;
- Names and titles of those school officials and other third parties involved;
- A specific description of the education record around which the alleged violation occurred;
- A description of any contact with school officials regarding the matter, including dates and estimated times of telephone calls and/or copies of any correspondence exchanged between the student and the school regarding the matter;
- The name and address of the school, school district, and superintendent of the district;
- Any additional evidence that would be helpful in the consideration of the complaint.
Complaints of alleged violations may be addressed to:
Family Policy Compliance Office
U.S. Department of Education
400 Maryland Avenue, SW
Washington, DC 20202-5920