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FERPA for Students

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.
  • Annual Notification

    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

    Complaints must:

    • 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:
    1. Relevant dates, such as the date of a request or a disclosure and the date the student learned of the alleged violation;
    2. Names and titles of those school officials and other third parties involved;
    3. A specific description of the education record around which the alleged violation occurred;
    4. 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;
    5. The name and address of the school, school district, and superintendent of the district;
    6. 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
    Phone: 202-260-3887