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Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (FERPA)(also referred to as the Buckley Amendment) is a US Federal law that protects the privacy of student education records i.e. records, files, documents and other materials containing information directly related to a student that are maintained by an educational institution. These may include transcripts, class schedules, class rolls and academic history reports. FERPA applies to all schools that receive funds under an applicable program of the US Department of Education. Most private and parochial schools do not receive these funds and are thus not subject to FERPA

The rights included in FERPA generally apply to the parents of the child until the child reaches the age of 18 or attends a school beyond high school level, at which time the rights transfers to the student. The FERPA affords full rights to either parent unless evidence is provided that there is a court order, state statute, or other legally binding document that specifically revokes these rights. Step-parents also have rights under FERPA if the step-parent is present in the home on a day-to-day basis. Students to whom the rights are transferred to are referred to as ‘eligible students’. Records can still be disclosed to parents without consent if the student is a dependent for Federal income tax purposes.

Generally, FERPA allows educational institutions to disclose education records or personally identifiable information from education records if they have the written consent of the student or parent, if the disclosure meets one of the statutory exemptions or if the disclosure is directory information and the student has not placed a hold on release of directory information.

FERPA also allows the following rights:

-          The rights to inspect and review their own education records – A written request should be made to the school and the school should offer the student or parent the right to inspect with 45 days of the receipt for access. Schools are not obliged to make copies or distribute the records unless it is impossible for the student or parent to review the records for reasons such as distance. Education institutes may charge for copies unless the fee imposed effectively prevents the student exercising his or her right to inspect and review the records. School board policy for education records should include a schedule of fees for copies that does not exceed the cost of reproduction or retrieval of the records.

-          The right to request the amendment of education records that the student believes are inaccurate, misleading, or otherwise in violation of the student’s privacy rights under FERPA – If the school decides not to amend the record, the student or parent has the right to a formal hearing. If the school is still of the same decision, the student or parent has the right to place a statement with the record with his or her view about the contested information.

-          The right to provide written consent before the educational institute discloses personally identifiable information from the student’s education records – except to the extent that FERPA authorises disclosure without consent (e.g. disclosure to school officials with legitimate educational interests). The educational institution may also disclose personally identifiable information from records without consent if it relates to an emergency if the information is necessary to protect the health and safety of the student or others. Schools may also disclose, without consent, certain ‘directory’ information such as a student’s name, address, phone number, honours and dates of attendance. However the school must inform the student or parent about the directory information and give the student or parent a reasonable amount of time to request the school to not make the disclosure.

-          The right to file a complaint with the US Department of Education concerning alleged failures by the University to comply with the requirements of FERPA.

The consequences of non-compliance with the FERPA requirements may include official notice from the Department of education to cease the practice of non-compliance. The Secretary of Education may also withhold funding from the institution due to non-compliance.

Summary

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (FERPA)(or the Buckley Amendment) is a US Federal law that protects the privacy of student education records i.e. records, files, documents and other materials containing information directly related to a student that are maintained by an educational institution.

CIPP Exam Preparation

In preparation for the Certified Information Privacy Professional/United States (CIPP/US) exam,  a privacy professional should be comfortable with topics related to this post, including:

  • Family Educational Rights & Privacy Act of 1974 (FERPA) (II.D.a.)
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