Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) Information
Most of the following information was taken directly from the US Department of Education website, specifically the page entitled: FERPA General Guidance for Parents. The underlined portions are specific to Jonathan Valley Elementary School. For more information regarding FERPA, please see the US Department of Education website.
Under FERPA, a school must annually notify parents of students in attendance of their rights under FERPA. The annual notification must include information regarding (1. see below) a parent’s right to inspect and review his or her child’s education records, (2. see below) the right to seek to amend the records, (3. see below) the right to consent to disclosure of personally identifiable information from the records (except in certain circumstances), and (4. see below) the right to file a complaint with the Family Policy Compliance Office in Washington, DC regarding an alleged failure by a school to comply with FERPA. The school must also inform parents of its definitions of the terms “school official” and “legitimate educational interest” (these are underlined within this document).
- Under FERPA, a school must provide a parent with an opportunity to inspect and review his or her child’s education records within 45 days following its receipt of a request. A school is required to provide a parent with copies of education records, or make other arrangements, if a failure to do so would effectively prevent the parent from obtaining access to the records. A case in point would be a situation in which the parent does not live within commuting distance of the school.
- Under FERPA, a parent has the right to request that inaccurate or misleading information in his or her child’s education records be amended. While a school is not required to amend education records in accordance with a parent’s request, the school is required to consider the request. If the school decides not to amend a record in accordance with a parent’s request, the school must inform the parent of his or her right to a hearing on the matter. If, as a result of the hearing, the school still decides not to amend the record, the parent has the right to insert a statement in the record setting forth his or her views. That statement must remain with the contested part of the student’s record for as long as the record is maintained.
- Under FERPA, a school may not generally disclose personally identifiable information from a minor student’s education records to a third party unless the student’s parent has provided written consent. However, there are a number of exceptions to FERPA’s prohibition against non-consensual disclosure of personally identifiable information from education records. Under these exceptions, schools are permitted to disclose personally identifiable information from education records without consent, though they are not required to do so by FERPA.
One of the exceptions to the prior written consent requirement in FERPA allows “school officials,” including teachers, within a school to obtain access to personally identifiable information contained in education records provided the school has determined that they have “legitimate educational interest” in the information.
A school may disclose personally identifiable information from education records without consent to a “school official” under this exception only if the school has first determined that the official has a “legitimate educational interest” in obtaining access to the information for the school. A school that allows school officials to obtain access to personally identifiable information contained in education records under this exception must include in its annual notification of FERPA rights a specification of its criteria for determining who constitutes a “school official” and what constitutes “legitimate educational interests.” A school official generally has a legitimate educational interest if the official needs to review an education record in order to fulfill his or her professional responsibility. “School officials” include all school and school system staff, and school volunteers in certain situations. “Legitimate educational interests” include anything that pertains to school and/or school functions that lie within that particular school official’s job description.
FERPA permits a school non-consensually to disclose personally identifiable information from a student’s education records when such information has been appropriately designated as directory information. “Directory information” is defined as information contained in the education records of a student that would not generally be considered harmful or an invasion of privacy if disclosed. The definition of directory information for our purposes at Jonathan Valley Elementary School includes information such as the student’s name, address, telephone listing, date and place of birth, participation in officially recognized activities, dates of attendance, the most recent previous educational agency or institution attended, photograph, awards received, and grade level.
A school may disclose directory information without consent if it has given public notice of the types of information it has designated as directory information (this document is that public notice), the parent’s right to restrict the disclosure of such information (parents have the right to restrict the disclosure of such information), and the period of time within which a parent has to notify the school that he or she does not want any or all of those types of information designated as directory information (parents need to let the school know by the end of the first 30 days the student is enrolled).
Another exception permits a school to disclose personally identifiable information from a student’s education records, without consent, to another school in which the student seeks or intends to enroll. The sending school may make the disclosure if it has included in its annual notification of rights a statement that it forwards education records in such circumstances. Jonathan Valley forwards educational records in such circumstances. Otherwise, the school must make a reasonable attempt to notify the parent in advance of making the disclosure, unless the parent or eligible student has initiated the disclosure.
- FERPA vests the rights it affords in the parent of a student. The statute does not provide for these rights to be vested in a third party who has not suffered an alleged violation of their rights under FERPA. Thus, we require that a parent have “standing,” i.e., have suffered an alleged violation of his or her rights under FERPA, in order to file a complaint. If we receive a timely complaint that contains a specific allegation of fact giving reasonable cause to believe that a school has violated FERPA, we may initiate an administrative investigation into the allegation in accordance with procedures outlined in the FERPA regulations. If a determination is made that a school violated FERPA, the school and the complainant are so advised, and the school is informed of the steps it must take to come into compliance with the law. The investigation is closed when voluntary compliance is achieved.