Every parent of a child under the age of 18 has a right to inspect and review your child’s educational records. The Federal Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) is a federal statute that addresses privacy of educational records of children enrolled in public elementary and secondary schools. FERPA applies to schools which receive any amount of funding from the U.S. Department of Education. FERPA does not apply to most private schools.
Records Subject to FERPA
Parents are entitled to review all records, files, documents, and other materials that are maintained by the school system and contain information relating to their child. The only items excluded under FERPA are:
- Notes of teachers, counselors, and/or school administrators made for their own personal use and not shared with anyone; and
- Personnel records of school employees.
FERPA does not mandate what documents a school must keep. However, a student’s cumulative file generally includes: registration and health records, test scores, reading and math test scores, and special education records. A student’s file should also have records regarding any disciplinary issues.
Amendment of Educational Records
Upon review of a student’s educational file, a parent may request the educational records be amended. Records are only amended if they are inaccurate, misleading, or in violation of the privacy rights of the student. The right does not extend to challenge substantive decisions made by school officials. The school must provide the parent an opportunity to be heard regarding the challenge.
If the challenge is denied, the parent may request a statement be placed in the student’s record, alongside the contested information.
Right to Consent to Disclosure
A student’s educational records may generally not be disclosed without parental consent. However, the school may disclose them in certain circumstances:
- During an audit, evaluation, or enforcement/compliance of federal or state-supported education programs;
- To school officials with a legitimate educational interest;
- To another school where the student seeks to enroll so long as the disclosure is related to a school transfer;
- In connection with a financial aid request by the student;
- To comply with a judicial order/subpoena;
- To health officials in connection with a state of emergency; and
- Disclosure of appropriate information may take place in connection with a school official’s disciplinary action.
Right to File a Complaint
A parent may file a complaint with the Family Policy Compliance Office for an alleged violation of FERPA. The complaint must:
- Be in writing and contain specific allegations of fact giving reasonable cause to be a FERPA violation has occurred;
- Be filed by the parent of a student at an elementary or secondary school under the age of 18 or an eligible student (defined below); and
- Filed within 180 days of the alleged violation or within 180 days after the complainant knew or should have known about the violation.
FPCO will review and investigate the complaint. Upon completion of the investigation FPCO will provide written notice to the parties of their findings. If the violation is substantiated, FPCO may require specific corrective action.
Students who reach the age of 18 or attend a postsecondary school are called “eligible students.” Rights related to educational records under FERPA transfer from parents to eligible students.
If believe your rights under FERPA have been violated, do not hesitate to contact Kristin Springer at 925-551-1041.
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