FERPA: What It Means and How It Works

4 min read

Frequently Asked Question(s)

What is FERPA in simple terms?

FERPA is a federal law that protects the privacy of student education records. It applies to any educational institution that receives funds from programs administered by the U.S. Secretary of Education. Institutions that do not comply with FERPA may lose their funding.

Key points of the law include:

  • Eligible Student Rights to Inspect Records:
    • College students have the right to inspect their own education records. When a student starts attending a university, these rights transfer from the parents to the student.
  • Privacy of Student Information:
    • Schools cannot share personally identifiable information from eligible student records or allow others to inspect these records without the student’s written permission, except for certain allowed exceptions. One such exception is sharing information with school officials who have a legitimate educational interest
Why is FERPA important for teachers?

FERPA is the law that protects Educational Records. It is important for the teachers to keep personal information related to the child and parents confidential. They neew to know what the law says about the various types of educational records and their accessibility conditions. 

Key FERPA Regulations Teachers Should Know

  • Parents and eligible students can inspect, review, and request to amend student’s education record.
  • FERPA protects most eligible student information collected by schools, except for: Sole possession records, school-based law enforcement records, employment records.
  • FERPA limits who can access students’ personally identifiable information and penalizes inappropriate re-disclosure by third parties.
  • Parents can inspect records related to the identification, evaluation, and placement of children with disabilities.
  • When students turn 18 or attend a postsecondary institution, they become “eligible students,” and all FERPA rights transfer from parents to the student.

[Source: ConexED Enterprise Student Experience Platform for Higher Education

Disclosure of personally identifiable information

Schools and educational institutions can unknowingly violate FERPA. Here are common violations to watch out for:

  • Sharing Student Educational Records Without Consent

Documents often contain confidential information like social security numbers. Sharing this without consent violates privacy laws.

  • Not Using Proper Security Measures

Schools must take appropriate security steps to protect students’ personal information and education records.

  • Failing to Inform Parents of FERPA Rights

Schools must give parents and eligible students annual updates on their FERPA rights. This is one of the simplest FERPA rules to follow, yet often overlooked.

[Source: Trustworthy.]

Is FERPA good or bad?

Overall, FERPA is beneficial for both students and parents.

Here’s why FERPA is beneficial:

  1. Protecting Minors:
    • Minors need their personal information to remain private for various reasons. Privacy ensures that students can recover and improve after disciplinary actions or academic setbacks without their issues being publicly known.
  2. Safeguarding Postsecondary Students:
    • At the college level, FERPA protects students’ privacy rights, especially in serious situations. It ensures that their personal information is not disclosed without consent, maintaining their right to privacy and allowing them to manage their educational journey.
  3. Balancing Rights and Needs:
    • Privacy laws like FERPA strive to balance individual rights with societal needs. In education, this balance is crucial as it helps in creating a secure environment for students to learn and grow.
  4. Contributing to Student Success:
    • By granting students these rights, FERPA plays a significant role in their success. It allows students to focus on their education without worrying about unauthorized access to their personal information, thereby supporting their overall well-being and future prospects.

FERPA’s comprehensive protection underscores its importance, ensuring that students can thrive academically and personally in a safe and secure environment.

[Source: ConexED Enterprise Student Experience Platform for Higher Education]

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