The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) is a federal law that protects the privacy interests of students. It affords parents the right to access and amend their children's education records, and gives them some control over the disclosure of the information in these records. FERPA generally prevents an education agency or institution from sharing student records, or personally identifiable information in these records, without the written consent of a parent. A "parent" is defined as a natural or adoptive parent, a legal guardian, or an individual acting as a parent in the absence of the parent or guardian. When students reach the age of 18, or attend a postsecondary institution at any age, they are considered "eligible students" and all of the rights afforded by FERPA transfer from the parents to the students. (34 CFR § 99.3)
Although student files are protected under the law, FERPA does allow the disclosure of student data without parental consent under certain, specified conditions. For example, schools may reveal information from student records to school officials with a legitimate educational interest in the information.
As employees of a school and education institution, you may have access to individual student records in performing your official duties. You are legally and ethically obliged to safeguard their confidentiality. This bulletin provides a general overview of FERPA and related issues you may encounter while you carry out your job duties.