Student privacy is a major concern for schools and districts across the country. Schools have a large accumulation of personal information about students, and this information must be protected. A student has the right to privacy. The federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, FERPA, provides students with specific rights to privacy of their education records. Schools must ensure the privacy of the records of students and former students.
Disclosure without Consent
Most of the information available in the student’s file is only available upon consent of the student, or student’s parents. However, there are some pieces of information that are allowed to be disclosed without consent. For example, directory information may be generally available to the public, if the student or parent consented to that information being included in the school directory. This may include the name and address of the student, along with the academic level and other information.
It is important that information that would personally identify the student be kept private. This means that information cannot be provided to the public if a person would be able to reasonably identify the student from the information provided. This could include such data as the height and weight of the student, the temperament of the student, and the age of the student, among other things.
Keeping Student Information Private
Administrators and educators are responsible for protecting the privacy of students. All faculty members must be informed of the laws governing the release of information. Sometimes teachers and others will be contacted directly to obtain information about a student or former student. The school is responsible for making sure that all requests for information are directed through proper channels and that no information is given outside of this policy. Failing to keep a student’s records private could make the school vulnerable to legal action.
When a complaint regarding student privacy arises, it must be handled appropriately. All complaints need to be taken seriously. Immediate action is required. First, steps must be taken to ensure that there is not a breach of security. Then, the complaint should be researched to determine exactly what the complainant alleges was improperly disclosed. . Some complaints can be easily resolved, while others may be serious and require the involvement of the school or district’s attorney. Administrators should have a plan in place to resolve complaints. Discuss the situation with a knowledgeable education law attorney before addressing complaints.
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 Student Privacy, 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.