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Protecting the Privacy of Student Records
Exhibit 5-1
Rights of Non-Custodial Parents
in the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act
of 19741 

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.

Section 99.4 gives an example of the rights of parents. 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.

1 The pamphlet was developed by the Family Policy Compliance Office of the U.S. Department of Education. 

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