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

Section 4: Commonly Asked Questions

Q. If a student’s record is corrected at the district level, must the district inform other holders of that record?

A. Yes. This is a major part of the importance of a written policy regarding what data are maintained and where they are kept. Also see section 5 for changes made to education records as requested by parents.

Q. What should I do when elected officials or others with authority over me want to see individual education records?

A. Unless authorized by law, the same rules of access apply to elected officials as to anyone else outside an agency. When you establish policies and procedures on access, the records manager or designated official would have the authority to deny unauthorized access. You can instruct all other staff members to refer requests to the designated official or records manager. See sections 4A, B, and E.

Q. Is it permissible to use information from the school lunch program in disaggregating student assessment scores; in determining student eligibility for supplemental educational services, such as tutoring; and in prioritizing opportunities for school choice to meet No Child Left Behind (NCLB) requirements?

A. The National School Lunch Act (NSLA) permits the disclosure of children’s free or reduced-price school lunch eligibility status to individuals directly connected with the administration or enforcement of federal and state education programs. Because Title I is a federal education program, individuals who are directly connected with, and who have a need to know, a child’s eligibility status to administer and enforce Title I requirements under NCLB may have access to the information. However, as with all confidential information, access should be limited to as few individuals as possible. For example, teachers may be provided a list of students who need supplemental tutoring. The teachers do not need to know that students on the list are certified eligible for free and reduced-price school meals.

Q. Does everyone in an agency have access rights to student records?

A. No. See section 4B for specific guidance.

Q. Do contractors or vendors for an agency have access rights to student records?

A. Contractors or vendors acting on behalf of the agency or school to perform specified duties that the agency or school is authorized to perform may be allowed access to those records they need to perform such duties. You should consider this kind of access on a case-by-case basis. Staff from organizations who have access to individual data should be trained in their responsibilities to keep the data confidential. See sections 4B and E.

Q. Who can do filing, typing, and data entry of education records?

A. Agencies or schools may assign these duties to qualified staff members. However, it is important to provide training as soon as you hire both permanent and temporary staff. The training should include the access rights as well as the responsibilities for safeguarding the confidentiality of data to which they have access. See section 4C.

Q. What policies should a school district, regional office, and state education agency have in effect?

A. In addition to the policies required by federal or state laws, you should also establish policies that cover how and what data to collect; how, where, and how long data are maintained; on what criteria individuals within and outside the agency may be given access to these data; and how students and parents may review and request amendments to the education records. See sections 3 to 6.