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Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA)

(The following information is provided by the U.S. Department of Education.)

General information

The Family Educational 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.

Amendment of education records

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 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 who 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 reasonable likely to inform students;
  • notification does not have to be made individually to students.

Complaints of alleged violations

Complaints of alleged violations may be addressed to:

Family Policy Compliance Office
US Department of Education
400 Maryland Avenue, SW
Washington, DC 20202-5920

Complaints must:

  • be timely submitted, not later than 180 days from the date you learned of the circumstances of the alleged violation
  • contain specific allegations of fact giving reasonable cause to believe that a violation has occurred, including:
  • relevant dates, such as the date of a request or a disclosure and the date the student learned of the alleged violation;
  • names and titles of those school officials and other third parties involved;
  • a specific description of the education record around which the alleged violation occurred;
  • 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;
  • the name and address of the school, school district, and superintendent of the district;
  • any additional evidence that would be helpful in the consideration of the complaint.