FERPA, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, is a United States federal law protecting the privacy of student’s educational records. Established in 1974, FERPA applies to all schools receiving federal funding, including public and private institutions, from kindergarten to higher education.
Think of FERPA as a privacy shield for students and their families. It grants parents and eligible students (those 18 or older or attending a post-secondary institution) the right to access, review, and request amendments to their education records. It also restricts schools from disclosing personally identifiable information (PII) from these records without written consent, except under specific circumstances.
For example, imagine a college student named Sarah who has just turned 20. Sarah’s parents can no longer access her grades, attendance, or disciplinary records without her consent, thanks to FERPA. Moreover, if Sarah’s college receives a request from a company for her academic information, the college must obtain Sarah’s written permission before sharing it.
However, FERPA allows certain exceptions, such as sharing information with school officials with a legitimate educational interest or during emergencies when the information is required for the student’s or others’ health and safety.
FERPA is a crucial privacy regulation that helps safeguard students’ educational records, giving families more control over their information and ensuring educational institutions handle sensitive data responsibly.