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Forum Guide to Protecting the Privacy of Student Information: State and Local Education Agencies


The primary purpose of this document is to help state and local education agencies and schools develop adequate policies and procedures to protect information about students and their families from improper release, while satisfying the need for school officials to make sound management, instructional, and service decisions. The document was developed under the direction of the National Forum on Education Statistics (Forum).1

The Forum is part of the National Cooperative Education Statistics System (Cooperative System) that was established by the Hawkins-Stafford Education Amendments of 1988 (Public Law 100–297) to “produce and maintain, with the cooperation of the States, comparable and uniform education information and data” and retains this responsibility under the mandate of the Education Sciences Reform Act of 2002 (Public Law 107–279). To assist in meeting this goal, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) established the Forum to improve the collection, reporting, and use of elementary and secondary education statistics.

The Forum recognized the significance of such security issues and raised concerns about the privacy of student data being collected, used, and released at all levels. In 1994, the Forum completed a report entitled Education Data Confidentiality: Two Studies. The Data Confidentiality Task Force was then established to identify ways to help state education agencies, school districts, and schools ensure the privacy of education records and to clarify the laws that exist for these agencies and the general public.

Under the Task Force’s direction, Protecting the Privacy of Student Records: Guidelines for Education Agencies was first published in 1997. A companion brochure, Protecting the Privacy of Student Education Records, was developed to help educators and the general public understand the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). The document was well received and widely used by state education agencies and local school districts. Since the publication of that document, new laws affecting the privacy issue have passed and more guidelines have been provided by the U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. A new Task Force was formed by the Forum in 2002 to study the issue, and revision to the guidelines began in 2003. This publication is the result of collaborative efforts among various federal agencies and state and school district officials. The focus of this report has been expanded to include other types of privacy concerns in addition to education records.

The information and opinions published here are the product of the National Forum on Education Statistics and do not necessarily represent the policy or views of the U.S Department of Education or the National Center for Education Statistics.


1 Full Forum members consist of federal, state, and local education representatives whose agencies have major responsibility for collecting and reporting state and national elementary and secondary data through the National Cooperative Education Statistics System (Cooperative System). Associate Forum members consist of national-level agencies or organizations that collect and/or use elementary and secondary education data. In addition, meetings are open to the general public, and experts may be invited to participate in Forum activities and to offer their expertise during Forum deliberations.