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

5.B. Providing Access to Individual Records

FERPA allows parents to inspect and review their own child’s education record. Exhibit 2–1 includes a Fact Sheet of FERPA describing the federal requirements in this aspect. Either of the natural parents, regardless of the custody assignments, has the rights granted under FERPA. See exhibit 5–1 for clarifications of this aspect. Some states have established laws with provisions regarding access of education records. It is also advisable to check for possible state laws that define “parents.”

An agency or school may choose to promptly honor a parent’s standing request for access. While prompt responses are best, agency or school staff should not omit the procedure of verifying the authenticity of the request. Hence, it is important that agencies or schools establish internal management procedures related to handling requests from parents to review their child’s record. These procedures should describe clearly all steps and necessary forms, and designate the official who handles all requests. This will not only avoid confusion among staff at agency or school offices, but will also facilitate the response process.

FERPA specifies that the following are not part of an education record and thus are not subject to the parent access rule of FERPA:

  • instructional, supervisory, and administrative information about personnel;
  • records maintained by a law enforcement unit;
  • records on a student who is 18 or older, or who is attending an institution of postsecondary education; and
  • records that are maintained by a physician, psychiatrist, or other professional or paraprofessional, and the records that are made in connection with treatment.