What is FERPA?
The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) is a federal law that affords parents the right to have access to their children’s education records, the right to seek to have the records amended, and the right to have some control over the disclosure of personally identifiable information from the education records. When a student turns 18 years old, or enters a postsecondary institution at any age, the rights under FERPA transfer from the parents to the student (“eligible student”). The FERPA statute is found at 20 U.S.C. § 1232g and the FERPA regulations are found at 34 CFR Part 99.
What is an Education Record?
Education records are records that are directly related to a student and that are maintained by an educational agency or institution or a party acting for or on behalf of the agency or institution. These 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 postsecondary level), and student discipline files. The information may be recorded in any way, including, but not limited to, handwriting, print, computer media, videotape, audiotape, film, microfilm, microfiche, and e-mail.
Source: 34 CFR § 99.2 “Education Records” and “Record.”
Who is a parent?
The term “parent” is defined as including natural parents, a guardian, or an individual acting as a parent in the absence of a parent or a guardian.
Who is an eligible student?
An “eligible student” means a student who has reached the age of 18 or who is attending a postsecondary institution at any age. Once a student becomes an “eligible student,” the rights afforded his or her parents under FERPA transfer to that student.
What does CFBISD deem as an Education Record?
The record custodian shall be responsible for the education records of the District. These records may include:
- Admissions data, personal and family data, including certification of date of birth.
- Standardized test data, including intelligence, aptitude, interest, personality, and social adjustment ratings.
- All achievement records, as determined by tests, recorded grades, and teacher evaluations.
- All documentation regarding a student’s testing history and any accelerated instruction he or she has received, including any documentation of discussion or action by a grade placement committee convened for the student.
- Health services record, including:
- The results of any tuberculin tests required by the District.
- The findings of screening or health appraisal programs the District conducts or provides. [See FFAA]
- Immunization records. [See FFAB]
- Attendance records.
- Student questionnaires.
- Records of teacher, counselor, or administrative conferences with the student or pertaining to the student.
- Verified reports of serious or recurrent behavior patterns.
- Copies of correspondence with parents and others concerned with the student.
- Records transferred from other districts in which the student was enrolled.
- Records pertaining to participation in extracurricular activities.
- Information relating to student participation in special programs.
- Records of fees assessed and paid.
- Records pertaining to student and parent complaints.
- Other records that may contribute to an understanding of the student.
Who can view Student Records?
FERPA gives custodial and noncustodial parents alike certain rights with respect to their children’s education records, unless a school is provided with evidence that there is a court order or State law that specifically provides to the contrary. Otherwise, both custodial and noncustodial parents have the right to access their children’s education records, the right to seek to have the records amended, the right to consent to disclosure of personally identifiable information from the records (except in certain circumstances specified in the FERPA regulations, some of which are discussed below), and the right to file a complaint with the Department. When a student reaches 18 years of age or attends a postsecondary institution, he or she becomes an “eligible student,” and all rights under FERPA transfer from the parent to the student. The term “education records” is defined as those records that contain information directly related to a student and which are maintained by an educational agency or institution or by a party acting for the agency or institution.
What does CFBISD consider Directory Information?
CFBISD has designated the following as Directory Information: student’s name, address, telephone number, email address, date and place of birth, photograph, participation in officially recognized activities and sports, weight and height of members of athletic teams, dates of attendance, honors and awards received, enrollment status, grade level, and the most recent previous educational agency or institution attended by your student. (Board Policy FL LOCAL)
May an educational agency or institution disclose directory information without prior consent?
Education records that have been appropriately designated as “directory information” by the educational agency or institution may be disclosed without prior consent. See 34 CFR §§ 99.31(a)(11) and 99.37. FERPA defines directory information as information contained in an education record of a student that would not generally be considered harmful or an invasion of privacy if disclosed. 34 CFR § 99.3.
FERPA provides that a school may disclose directory information if it has given public notice of the types of information which it has designated as “directory information,” the parent or eligible student’s right to restrict the disclosure of such information, and the period of time within which a parent or eligible student has to notify the school in writing that he or she does not want any or all of those types of information designated as “directory information.” 34 CFR § 99.37(a). A school is not required to inform former students or the parents of former students regarding directory information or to honor their request that directory information not be disclosed without consent. 34 CFR § 99.37(b). However, if a parent or eligible student, within the specified time period during the student’s last opportunity as a student in attendance, requested that directory information not be disclosed, the school must honor that request until otherwise notified.
An eligible student that opted out of directory information has left the school. Now that the student is no longer in attendance, may the school disclose that students directory information?
No, a school is required to honor the eligible student’s request to opt out of the disclosure of directory information made while the student was in attendance, unless the student rescinds the opt out request.
An eligible student that opted out of directory information has left the school. Now that the student is no longer in attendance, may the school disclose that student’s directory information?
Does FERPA permit schools to disclose a student’s education records to the State or local Child Welfare Agency (CWA) or tribal organization?
There are exceptions to consent in FERPA that permit, but do not require, local educational agencies (LEAs) and schools to disclose personally identifiable information (PII) from education records under certain conditions without the written consent of the parent or eligible student. Congress amended FERPA to add an additional exception to the general requirement of consent in FERPA that permits LEAs (Local Education Agency) and schools to disclose education records of students placed in foster care, without consent of the parent or eligible student, to an agency caseworker or other representative of a State or local child welfare agency (CWA) or tribal organization authorized to access a student’s case plan when such agency or organization is legally responsible, in accordance with State or tribal law, for the care and protection of the student.
To summarize, a “case plan” is defined at 42 U.S.C. 675(1) as a written document that must include a number of specified items that, among other things, must address both the proper care of children in foster care placement. The plan also addresses the services that are provided to children in foster care placement, their parents, and their foster parents. The plan also includes, but is not limited to, ensuring the educational stability of children in foster care.
Therefore, the amendment to FERPA only applies to those children for whom the CWA or tribal organization is legally responsible, in accordance with State or tribal law, for the care and protection of a child in foster care placement. FERPA would not permit LEAs and schools and to disclose PII from education records to the CWA or tribal organization for children who are not in foster care placement, even if those children are receiving other services through the CWA or tribal organization (e.g., vocational and skill assessments, training, tutoring, educational services, family services, and community enrichment activities).
How may a parent or eligible student file a FERPA complaint with the Department of Education?
A parent or eligible student may file a written complaint with the Family Policy Compliance Office regarding an alleged violation under of FERPA. The complaint must be timely (submitted to the office within 180 days of the date that the complainant knew or reasonably knew of the violation) and state clearly and succinctly specific allegations of fact giving reasonable cause to believe that the school has violated FERPA.