The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) (20 U.S.C. § 1232g; 34 CFR Part 99) 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.
FERPA gives parents certain rights with respect to their children’s education records. These rights transfer to the student when he or she reaches the age of 18 or attends a school beyond the high school level.
Students to whom the rights have transferred are “eligible students.”
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.
Students have the right to request that a school correct records that they believe to be inaccurate or misleading. If the school decides not to amend the record, the student then has the right to a formal hearing. After the hearing, if the school still decides not to amend the record, the 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 student in order to release any information from a student’s education record. However, FERPA allows schools to disclose those records, without consent, to the following parties or under the following conditions (34 CFR § 99.31):
- school officials with legitimate educational interest
- other schools to which a student is transferring
- specified officials for audit or evaluation purposes
- appropriate parties in connection with financial aid to a student
- organizations conducting certain studies for or on behalf of the school
- accrediting organizations
- to comply with a judicial order or lawfully issued subpoena
- appropriate officials in cases of health and safety emergencies
- 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. However, schools must tell students about directory information and allow students a reasonable amount of time to request that the school not disclose directory information about them. Schools must notify 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.
Foothill-De Anza Administrative Procedure 5050 also identifies the college registrar as the “Records Officer” required by FERPA. Current and former students can review their education records by completing or filing a request in the Admissions and Records Office. Such records will be made immediately available when possible or within 15 days of written request. If the review results in a dispute, the college registrar will initiate an informal proceeding in an attempt to resolve the matter. If the dispute continues, a grievance may be filed with the vice president of Student Services.