Do you have children in college? Are you a student in college? Let’s talk about FERPA.
FERPA stands for the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act. It is a federal law, enacted in 1974, that applies to all schools that receive federal funding from programs administered by the Department of Education. The law is designed to (1) protect the privacy of student education records, (2) establish the right of students to inspect or review their education records, and (3) provide guidelines for the correction of inaccurate or misleading information. When students are minors these rights vest with parents. Rights transfer from parents to students once a student turns 18 or enters a postsecondary institution.
Educational records might include grades, transcripts, class lists, course schedules, financial information, or student discipline files directly related to a student.
Students attending a postsecondary institution have several important rights in relation to their education records. They can inspect or review their records, as well as seek to amend legitimate errors. More importantly, students have some control over the release of information from their education records. For example, a student can give written consent to their university or college to release information to parents, employers, or other third parties.
A student’s consent for disclosure must be made in writing and provided to the postsecondary institution. FERPA doesn’t allow oral consent for disclosure of information from education records. Schools are required to notify students annually of their FERPA rights even though the actual means of notification is left to each school’s discretion.
Schools may also disclose directory information without prior consent in certain situations. Under FERPA, information from education records is considered directory information if it isn’t generally considered harmful or an invasion of privacy if disclosed. Directory information might include a student’s name, address, email address, enrollment status, field of study, degrees pursued, or honors and awards received. But the school must notify students about directory information and allow them a reasonable amount of time to request that their directory information not be disclosed. Again, a student’s request to restrict disclosure of directory information must be made in writing. A request must be honored until the school is notified otherwise.
The Family Policy Compliance Office of the Department of Education handles any alleged FERPA violations. Complaints must be timely filed or submitted to the office within 180 days of the date that the student knew or should’ve known of the violation.