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student privacy

Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA)

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) is a federal law that protects the privacy of student education records. The law applies to all schools that receive funds under an applicable program of the U.S. Department of Education. See 20 U.S.C. §1232g; 34 CFR Part 99.

FERPA gives parents certain rights with respect to their children's education records. These rights transfer to the student when the student reaches the age of 18 or attends a school beyond the high school level. Students to whom the rights have transferred are "eligible students."

• Parents or eligible students have the right to inspect and review the student's education records maintained by the school. Schools are not required to provide copies of records unless, for reasons such as great distance, it is impossible for parents or eligible students to review the records. Schools may charge a fee for copies.

• Parents or eligible students have the right to request that a school correct records which they believe to be inaccurate or misleading. If the school decides not to amend the record, the parent or eligible student then has the right to a formal hearing. After the hearing, if the school still decides not to amend the record, the parent or eligible student has the right to place a statement with the record setting forth his or her view about the contested information.

• Generally, schools must have written permission from the parent or eligible student to release any information from a student's education record. But FERPA allows schools to disclose those records, without consent, to the following parties or under the following conditions (34 CFR § 99.31):

o School officials with a legitimate educational interest;

o Other schools to which a student is transferring;

o Specified officials for audit or evaluation purposes;

o Appropriate parties in connection with financial aid to a student;

o Organizations conducting certain studies for or on behalf of the school;

o Accrediting organizations;

o To comply with a judicial order or lawfully issued subpoena;

o Appropriate officials in cases of health and safety emergencies; and

o State and local authorities, within a juvenile justice system, pursuant to specific state law.

Schools may disclose, without consent, "directory" information such as a student's name, address, telephone number, date and place of birth, honors and awards, and dates of attendance. But schools must tell parents and eligible students about directory information and allow parents and eligible students a reasonable amount of time to request that the school not disclose directory information about them.

Schools must notify parents and eligible students annually of their rights under FERPA. The actual means of notification (special letter, inclusion in a PTA bulletin, student handbook, or newspaper article) is left to the discretion of each school.

Protection of Pupil Rights Amendment (PPRA)

The Protection of Pupil Rights Amendment (PPRA) is a federal law that gives certain rights to parents of minor students regarding surveys that ask questions of a personal nature. The law requires that schools obtain written consent from parents before minor students are required to participate in any U.S. Department of Education funded survey, analysis, or evaluation that reveals information concerning the following areas:

1. Political affiliations;

2. Mental and psychological problems potentially embarrassing to the student and the student’s family;

3. Sex behavior and attitudes;

4. Illegal, anti-social, self-incriminating, and demeaning behavior;

5. Critical appraisals of other individuals with whom respondents have close family relationships;

6. Legally recognized privileged or analogous relationships, such as those of lawyers, physicians, and ministers;

7. Religious practices, affiliations, or beliefs of the student or student's parent; or

8. Income—other than that required by law to determine eligibility for participation in a program or for receiving financial assistance under such program.

The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 contains a major amendment to PPRA that gives parents more rights regarding the surveying of minor students, the collection of information from students for marketing purposes, and certain non-emergency medical examinations.

State Student Privacy Laws

In addition to these federal laws governing student privacy rights, some states have student privacy laws. These state laws are usually located in a state’s statutes—often in the education code or a similarly named code (compilation of statutes).

In Texas, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) is a federal law that safeguards the privacy of student education records and applies to all schools receiving federal funding. Parents have rights to inspect and request amendments to their children's records, which transfer to students at age 18 or when attending post-secondary institutions. Schools can disclose records without consent under certain conditions, such as to school officials with legitimate interests or in response to subpoenas, but generally require written permission. Directory information can be released unless parents or eligible students opt out. Schools must annually inform parents and students of their FERPA rights. The Protection of Pupil Rights Amendment (PPRA) complements FERPA by requiring parental consent before students participate in federally funded surveys that could reveal sensitive personal information. Texas may have additional state-specific student privacy laws that provide further protections, typically found in the state's education code or similar statutes.

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