Communications and Media

Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) 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 US Department of Education.

Education Records

FERPA gives parents certain rights with respect to their children's education records. These rights transfer to the students they turn 18 years old or go to schools beyond the high school level. When the rights transfer to the students, the students are called "eligible students."

Parents or eligible students have the right to inspect and review the student's education records maintained by the school. Schools don't have to provide copies of records unless, for reasons such as great distance, it's impossible for parents or eligible students to review the records. Schools may charge a fee for copies.

Corrections to Records

Parents or eligible students have the right to request that a school correct records they think are inaccurate or misleading. If the school decides not to correct a record, the parent or eligible student has the right to a formal hearing. After the hearing, if the school still decides not to change it, the parent or eligible student has the right to put a statement on the record explaining her disagreement with the information in the record.

Release of Information: Permission Required

Generally, schools must have written permission from the parent or eligible 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 people or under the following conditions:

  • 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

Release of Information without Permission

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 parents and eligible students about directory information and allow parents and eligible students a reasonable amount of time to request that the school not disclose directory information about them.

Notification of Rights

Schools must notify parents and eligible students annually of their rights under FERPA. The actual means of notification is left to the discretion of each school.

Filing a Complaint and Additional FERPA Information

For additional information call the Family Policy Compliance Office (FPCO) at (202) 260-3887. Individuals who use TDD may call 1-800-877-8339.

Questions for Your Attorney

  • Can a school refuse to take my child as a transfer student if her old school doesn't send her record to the new school?
  • Is there any way to have references to disciplinary actions removed from my child's permanent record?
  • Can my son's school release information about him to another school without getting permission from me. Is there anything that I can do?
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