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Forum Guide to the Privacy of Student Information
NCES 2006-805
July 2006

Introduction

As an employee of a school or other education institution, you may sometimes access individual student records while performing your official duties. Under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), you are legally and ethically obliged to safeguard the confidentiality of any information they contain. This guide provides a general overview of the legal and related issues you may encounter while carrying out your duties.

The school district is responsible for ensuring that all parents and eligible students are afforded all the rights provided them by FERPA.

The Forum Guide to the Privacy of Student Information: a Resource for Schools was written to help school and local education agency staff better understand and apply FERPA, a federal law that protects privacy interests of parents and students in student education records. The Forum has developed full reports on student (and staff) privacy guidance, but a shorter document was needed to provide a quick overview and links to other resources when more information is needed. This guide defines terms such as “education records” and “directory information”; and offers guidance for developing appropriate privacy policies and information disclosure procedures related to military recruiting, parental rights and annual notification, videotaping, online information, media releases, surveillance cameras, and confidentiality concerns related specifically to health-related information. Additional references to related resources from both the federal government and private organizations can be found in the online document, "FERPA Facts for School Staff," which is available at http://nces.ed.gov/forum/FERPA_links.asp.

For a more in-depth review of privacy laws and professional practices that apply to information collected for, and maintained in, student records, see the Forum Guide to Protecting the Privacy of Student Information: State and Local Education Agencies (NCES 2004).

FERPA-related violations may have serious repercussions. A school district found to have violated FERPA will be required to implement a plan of action to ensure compliance, and schools that refuse to comply risk losing federal education dollars. Therefore, it is essential to train school staff in FERPA requirements, especially since the Family Policy Compliance Office (FPCO) investigates entire school districts even when complaints are filed against individual school officials.

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