Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act
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|Long title||Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act|
|Statutes at Large||20 U.S.C. § 1232g|
|USA Patriot Act|
The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (FERPA or the Buckley Amendment) is a United States federal law that governs the access to educational information and records by public entities such as potential employers, publicly funded educational institutions, and foreign governments.
FERPA gives parents access to their child's education records, an opportunity to seek to have the records amended, and some control over the disclosure of information from the records. With several exceptions, schools must have a student's consent prior to the disclosure of education records after that student is 18 years old. The law applies only to educational agencies and institutions that receive funds under a program administered by the U.S. Department of Education.
Other regulations under this act, effective starting January 3, 2012, allow for greater disclosures of personal and directory student identifying information and regulate student IDs and e-mail addresses. For example, schools may provide external companies a student's personally identifiable information without the student's consent. Conversely, tying student directory information to other information may result in a violation, as the combination creates an education record.
Examples of situations affected by FERPA include school employees divulging information to anyone other than the student about the student's grades or behavior, and school work posted on a bulletin board with a grade. Generally, schools must have written permission from the parent or eligible student in order to release any information from a student's education record.
This U.S. federal law also gave students 18 years of age or older, or students of any age if enrolled in any post-secondary educational institution, the right of privacy regarding grades, enrollment, and even billing information unless the school has specific permission from the student to share that specific type of information.
FERPA also permits a school to disclose personally identifiable information from education records of an "eligible student" (a student age 18 or older or enrolled in a postsecondary institution at any age) to his or her parents if the student is a "dependent student" as that term is defined in Section 152 of the Internal Revenue Code. Generally, if either parent has claimed the student as a dependent on the parent's most recent income tax statement, the school may non-consensually disclose the student's education records to both parents.
The law allowed students who apply to an educational institution such as graduate school permission to view recommendations submitted by others as part of the application. However, on standard application forms, students are given the option to waive this right.
FERPA specifically excludes employees of an educational institution if they are not students.
Access to public records
The citing of FERPA to conceal public records that are not "educational" in nature has been widely criticized, including by the act's primary Senate sponsor. For example, in the Owasso Independent School District v. Falvo case, an important part of the debate was determining the relationship between peer-grading and "education records" as defined in FERPA. The plaintiffs argued "that allowing students to score each other's tests[...]as the teachers explain the correct answers to the entire class[...] embarrassed [...] children", but lost in a summary judgment by the district court. In the Court of Appeals, it was ruled that students placing grades on the work of other students made such work into an "education record." Thus, peer-grading was determined as a violation of FERPA privacy policies because students had access to other students' academic performance without full consent. However, on appeal to the Supreme Court, it was unanimously ruled that peer-grading was not a violation of FERPA. This is because a grade written on a student's work does not become an "education record" until the teacher writes the final grade into a grade book.
Student medical records
Legal experts have debated the issue of whether student medical records (for example records of therapy sessions with a therapist at an on-campus counseling center) might be released to the school administration under certain triggering events, such as when a student sued his college or university.
Usually, student medical treatment records will remain under the protection of FERPA, not the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). This is due to the "FERPA Exception" written within HIPAA.
- Codified at 20 U.S.C. § 1232g, with implementing regulations in title 34, part 99 of the Code of Federal Regulations
- Mendelsohn, Stephen A. (2 January 2012). "U.S. Department of Education Amends its FERPA Regulations to Allow for Certain Additional Student Disclosures". The National Law Review. Retrieved 9 March 2014.
- "What is "Directory Information"?". US Department of Education. 26 June 2015. Archived from the original on 2 July 2019. Retrieved 26 February 2020.
[...] Typically, "directory information" includes information such as name, address, telephone listing, date and place of birth, participation in officially recognized activities and sports, and dates of attendance. A school may disclose "directory information" to third parties without consent if [...]. (34 C.F.R. 99.37.)
- "FERPA Tutorial - Directory Information|When is Directory Information Not Really Directory Information?". Office of The University Registrar - Penn State. Retrieved 26 February 2020.
It is important to also understand the concept of "implicit disclosure." An implicit disclosure may occur when a list consists only of directory information but the list itself by definition reveals non-directory information. For example, a list of names and email addresses of all students who have a particular grade-point average reveals the students' GPAs. Likewise, a class list containing names and email addresses of the students reveals class enrollments. Since neither grade-point average nor class enrollment are directory items, releasing these lists without prior consent of the students constitutes a FERPA violation.
- "What is an education record? | Protecting Student Privacy". studentprivacy.ed.gov. US Department of Education. Archived from the original on Christmas 2018. Retrieved 26 February 2020 – via https://studentprivacy.ed.gov/frequently-asked-questions.
[...]records include but are not limited to grades, transcripts, class lists, student course schedules, health records (at the K-12 level), student financial information (at the post secondary level), and student discipline files. [...]Check date values in:
- FERPA General Guidance for Parents, U.S. Department of Education, http://www2.ed.gov/policy/gen/guid/fpco/ferpa/parents.html
- Jill Riepenhoff & Todd Jones, "Secrecy 101," The Columbus Dispatch, Dec. 17, 2010, http://www.dispatch.com/content/stories/local/2010/10/14/secrecy-redirect.html
- Dinger, Daniel. "Johnny saw my test score, so I'm suing my teacher: Falvo v. Owasso Independent School District, peer grading, and a student's right to privacy under the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act". Journal of Law & Education. 30: 575–626.
- "Owasso Independent School District No. I-011 v. Falvo".
- Mangan, Katherine (March 5, 2015). "Just How Private Are College Students' Campus Counseling Records?". The Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved 17 March 2015.
- Pryal, Katie Rose Guest (March 2, 2015). "Raped on Campus? Don't Trust Your College to Do the Right Thing". The Chronicle of Higher Education.
- Rowe, Linda (2005). "What Judicial Officers Need to Know about the HIPAA Privacy Rule". NASPA Journal. 42 (4): 498–512. doi:10.2202/0027-6014.1537. ProQuest 62084860.