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A Guide to Family Educational and Privacy Rights (FERPA)

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A Parent’s Guide to Children’s Educational Records

Did you know that a federal privacy law exists that gives certain protection regarding your child’s educational records?  The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) gives the parent the right to review their child’s records and request changes until the child turns 18 years old.  FERPA also requires schools to ask for written consent from the parents before they disclose any child’s educational record to a third party.

What happens if a school won’t show the child’s school records to the parent?

Under FERPA, schools are required to provide the parents with access to review their children’s records within 45 days (but need not provide a copy) under certain circumstances.  Parents with children under Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) may have additional rights to their school records.

When does a third party get to see a child’s school records?

Generally, schools can only disclose a child’s educational record if they get consent from the parent.  However, a school does not need a parent’s consent when a school official has a legitimate educational interest, when a student intends to enroll at another school, or when a disclosure has to be made to state or local education authorities for auditing or evaluating federal or state supported education programs or enforcing federal laws that relate to those programs.

What happens to the parent’s right to school records once the child turns 18 years old?

When the child turns 18 years old, the parent’s right to review school records transfers to the student or enters a post-secondary school.  However, pursuant to FERPA, schools can provide the parent with their child’s school records without the student’s consent under certain circumstances.  For example, schools may provide the parent with access to the student’s records if the student is claimed as a dependent for tax purposes, if a health or safety emergency is involved or if the student is under 21 years old and has violated any law or policy concerning the use or possession of alcohol or a controlled substance.

A Post-Secondary Student’s Guide to Educational Records

Did you know that as a post-secondary student you have rights over your education records and who can see them?  The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) is a federal privacy law that give eligible students certain rights to their own educational records once they turn 18 years old or when they attend a post-secondary school.  A post-secondary school is defined as any education institution that provides classes to students who have completed high school.  Post-secondary schools could be trade schools, traditional colleges or graduate schools.

A post-secondary student has the right to view their school records, request to make changes and also the right to give consent before the post-secondary school discloses information that can identify the student based on characteristics or personal information.

The four rights that students have to educational records are:

1.  Right to Review.  A post-secondary student has the right to review their education records within 45 days after the post-secondary school receives a request for access.

2.  Right to Amend.  A student has a right to request a change to the student’s education records either because the student believes there is an error present or if they believe it violates the student’s privacy rights under FERPA.

3.  Right to Provide Consent.  A post-secondary school cannot disclose personally identifiable information (“PII”) from the student’s education records except the ones that FERPA authorizes.  PII under FERPA refers to identifiable information in education records, such as student’s name, student’s date of birth, or other information that can directly or indirectly distinguish the student’s identity.  The school needs consent from the student before it publishes any PII of the student.

4.  Right to File Complaint.  If the student believes that the post-secondary school is not complying with the rules of FERPA, the student can file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education.

If you or someone you know has questions or problems requesting school records for your child or with a post-secondary school or the attainment of school records, contact us for a consultation.

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