The Freedom of Information Act, FOIA, is federal legislation that gives citizens the right to access information from governmental organizations. The FOIA was established in 1967 and has since had various amendments that were deemed necessary as time and technology progressed. The legislation covers a wide array of areas and governmental agencies that access and store information.
Freedom of Information
Information is allowed to become public unless it falls into a protected category. Student information generally falls under the category of a protected interest, which is personal privacy. Providing personal information to the public could be harmful to the child, even if he is no longer a student. The files are deemed private forever. It is essential that only specified employees have access to school records.
Keeping Information Safe
Cyber attacks make it possible for electronically-stored data to be accessed by hackers. It is imperative that the school take the necessary precautions to ensure the safety of the data that is being saved. Additionally, older information, which may still be kept in hard copy, must be properly stored. School districts often purge older files after a period of time. This must be done in accordance with the best practices to guarantee that the data cannot fall into unauthorized hands.
There are some limited situations that allow a student’s records to be disclosed without the consent of the individual. Federal or local police agencies may require information on current or former students. Only information that is necessary is allowed to be provided. Before providing any information to any source, verify the legality by consulting with a qualified education law attorney. Any time information is accessed, or attempted to be accessed, the student or parents must be notified. It is important that schools maintain a procedure for how they provide and access information on all students and former students.
This blog should be used for informational purposes only. It does not create an attorney-client relationship with any reader and should not be construed as legal advice. If you need legal advice regarding Freedom of Information Act, or other Education Law matters, please feel free to contact Erin H. Walz at 480.461.5379, log on to www.udallshumway.com or contact an attorney in your area. Udall Shumway PLC is located in Mesa, Arizona and is a full service law firm. We assist Individuals, families, businesses, schools and municipalities in Mesa and the Phoenix/East Valley.
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