Protecting the Privacy
of Student Records
Rights of Non-Custodial
in the Family Educational
Rights and Privacy Act
The Family Educational Rights and Privacy
Act (FERPA) sets out requirements designed to protect the privacy of parents
and students. In brief, the law requires a school district to: 1) provide
a parent access to the records that are directly related to the student;
2) provide a parent an opportunity to seek correction of the record he
or she believes to be inaccurate or misleading; and 3) with some exceptions,
obtain the written permission of a parent before disclosing information
contained in the student's education record.
The definition of parent is found in the
FERPA implementing regulation under 34 CFR 99.3.
"Parent" means a parent of a student
and includes a natural parent, a guardian, or an individual acting as a
parent in the absence of a parent or a guardian.
Section 99.4 gives an example of the rights
An educational agency or institution
shall give full rights under the Act to either parent, unless the agency
or institution has been provided with evidence that there is a court order,
State statute, or legally binding document relating to such matters as
divorce, separation, or custody, that specifically revokes these rights.
This means that, in the case of divorce or
separation, a school district must provide access to both natural parents,
custodial and non-custodial, unless there is a legally binding document
that specifically removes that parent's FERPA rights. In this context,
a legally binding document is a court order or other legal paper that prohibits
access to education record, or removes the parent's rights to have knowledge
about his or her child's education.
Custody or other residential arrangements
for a child do not, by themselves, affect the FERPA rights of the child's
parents. One can best understand the FERPA position on parents' rights
by separating the concept of custody from the concept of rights that FERPA
gives parents. Custody, as a legal concept, establishes where a child will
live, and often, the duties of the person(s) with whom the child lives.
The FERPA, on the other hand, simply establishes the parents' right of
access to and control of education record related to the child.
Here are the answers to questions frequently
asked about the rights of non-custodial parents.
the FERPA require a school to keep a parent informed of the child's progress
even though the parent is divorced and living some distance from the child?
No. The FERPA does not require schools
to inform parents of student progress whetherthe parents are divorced or
Does the FERPA require a school to provide a parent copies of the record?
Generally, a school is not required to
provide parents copies of the record. However, if the distance is great
enough to make it impractical for the parent to visit the school to review
the record, the school must make copies of the record and send them to
the parent when that parent requests access to the record.
May a school charge for copies of records?
Yes. A school may charge a reasonable fee
the non-custodial parent have the right to be informed of and to attend
The FERPA does not address conferences
for the purpose of discussing student performance. Thus, a school has no
obligation under this law to arrange a conference to accommodate the non-custodial
parent. However, if records of conferences are maintained, the non-custodial
parent has the right to see those records.
Must the school notify the non-custodial parent of his/her FERPA rights?
No. The school would be considered in compliance
with the law if it notifies only the parent who has custody of the child.
Must the school provide the non-custodial parent the same general
notices it provides the custodial parent?
No. General notices, lunch menus, PTA information,
announcement of teacher conferences, school pictures, and other similar
information, are not "education records" as defined by the FERPA. Therefore,
schools are not legally required to provide them.
the school required to honor a parent's "standing request" for access or
No. The FERPA does not require a school
to honor a standing request, but the school may do so if it wishes. If
parents wish to obtain information from their child's record on a regular
basis, they should submit requests periodically. The school must respond
to each request within 45 days.
can a non-custodial parent get access to record?
Any parent may ask the school for the opportunity
to review the record, either by going to where the record are kept or by
requesting copies. The school may ask the parent for some identification.
Can the parent with custody prevent the non-custodial parent from exercising
his or her FERPA rights?
No. FERPA rights are given to both parents.
The school may assume that a parent has these rights unless it has evidence
to the contrary. The school does not need the permission of the custodial
parent to give access to the non-custodial parent.
The pamphlet was developed
by the Family Policy Compliance
Office of the U.S. Department of Education.
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