Who has access to student records?

11 Jun

Moi discussed the The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) in The Federal Educational Rights and Privacy Act balancing act:

Schools all over the country are challenged by students who are violent, disruptive, and sometimes dangerous. Christine Clarridge, Seattle Times staff reporter reports in the Seattle Times article, Student-privacy laws complicate schools’ ability to prevent attacks which was about an unprovoked assault in a high school restroom which almost killed two students.

Five months before she allegedly attacked two schoolmates with a knife, nearly killing one, a Snohomish High School student underwent counseling after she threatened to kill another student’s boyfriend.

The 15-year-old Snohomish girl was allowed to return to school only after she presented proof she had attended counseling.

The earlier threats would have never been made public if the information wasn’t contained in court documents charging the girl with first-degree attempted murder and first-degree assault in last Monday’s attack.

Some Snohomish parents were surprised to learn of the earlier threat and have expressed concern that they weren’t notified.

But student information, including mental-health records, is tightly held by school districts because of federal privacy laws. The district says it cannot even discuss whether counselors or teachers were made aware of the earlier threats because of privacy laws.

The case underscores the delicate and complicated balancing act faced by schools in their efforts to meet the educational and privacy rights of individual students, as well as their need to ensure the safety of the larger student body.

http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/localnews/2016643796_schoolsafety30m.html

There is a complex intertwining of laws which often prevent school officials from disclosing much about students.

According to Fact Sheet 29: Privacy in Education: Guide for Parents and Adult-Age Students,Revised September 2010 the major laws governing disclosure about student records are:

What are the major federal laws that govern the privacy of education records?

  • Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) 20 USC 1232g (1974)

  • Protection of Pupil’s Rights Amendments (PPRA) 20 USC 1232h (1978)

  • No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, Pub. L. 107-110, 115 STAT. 1425 (January 2002)

  • USA Patriot Act, P.L. 107-56 (October 26, 2001)

  • Privacy Act of 1974, 5 USC Part I, Ch. 5, Subch. 11, Sec. 552

  • Campus Sex Crimes Prevention Act (Pub. L. 106-386)

FERPA is the best known and most influential of the laws governing student privacy. Oversight and enforcement of FERPA rests with the U.S. Department of Education. FERPA has recently undergone some changes since the enactment of the No Child Left Behind Act and the USA Patriot Act….

https://www.privacyrights.org/fs/fs29-education.htm

https://drwilda.wordpress.com/2011/10/30/the-federal-educational-rights-and-privacy-act-balancing-act/

Still, schools collect a lot of information about students.

Jason Koebler has written an interesting U.S. News article, Who Should Have Access to Student Records?

Since “No Child Left Behind” was passed 10 years ago, states have been required to ramp up the amount of data they collect about individual students, teachers, and schools. Personal information, including test scores, economic status, grades, and even disciplinary problems and student pregnancies, are tracked and stored in a kind of virtual “permanent record” for each student.

But parents and students have very little access to that data, according to a report released Wednesday by the Data Quality Campaign, an organization that advocates for expanded data use.

All 50 states and Washington, D.C. collect long term, individualized data on students performance, but just eight states allow parents to access their child’s permanent record. Forty allow principals to access the data and 28 provide student-level info to teachers.

Education experts, including Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and former Washington, D.C., Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee, argue that education officials can use student data to assess teachers—if many students’ test scores are jumping in a specific teacher’s class, odds are that teacher is doing a good job.

Likewise, teachers can use the data to see where a student may have struggled in the past and can tailor instruction to suit his needs.

At an event discussing the Data Quality Campaign report Wednesday, Rhee said students also used the information to try to out-achieve each other.

The data can be an absolute game changer,” she says. “If you have the data, and you can invest and engage children and their families in this data, it can change a culture quickly.”Privacy experts say the problem is that states collect far more information than parents expect, and it can be shared with more than just a student’s teacher or principal.“When you have a system that’s secret [from parents] and you can put whatever you want into it, you can have things going in that’ll be very damaging,” says Lillie Coney, associate director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center. “When you put something into digital form, you can’t control where that’ll end up.”

According to a 2009 report by the Fordham University Center on Law and Information Policy, some states store student’s social security numbers, family financial information, and student pregnancy data. Nearly half of states track students’ mental health issues, illnesses, and jail sentences.Without access to their child’s data, parents have no way of knowing what teachers and others are learning about them.

http://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2012/01/19/who-should-have-access-to-student-records

The U.S. Department of Education enforces FERPA.

This is what the U.S. Department of Education says about the Family Education and Privacy Rights Act:

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) (20 U.S.C. § 1232g; 34 CFR Part 99) 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 U.S. Department of Education.

FERPA gives parents certain rights with respect to their children’s education records. These rights transfer to the student when he or she reaches the age of 18 or attends a school beyond the high school level. Students to whom the rights have transferred are “eligible students.”

  • Parents or eligible students have the right to inspect and review the student’s education records maintained by the school. Schools are not required to provide copies of records unless, for reasons such as great distance, it is impossible for parents or eligible students to review the records. Schools may charge a fee for copies.
  • Parents or eligible students have the right to request that a school correct records which they believe to be inaccurate or misleading. If the school decides not to amend the record, the parent or eligible student then has the right to a formal hearing. After the hearing, if the school still decides not to amend the record, the parent or eligible student has the right to place a statement with the record setting forth his or her view about the contested information.
  • 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 parties or under the following conditions (34 CFR § 99.31):
    • 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; and
    • State and local authorities, within a juvenile justice system, pursuant to specific State law.

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. Schools must notify parents and eligible students annually of their rights under FERPA. The actual means of notification (special letter, inclusion in a PTA bulletin, student handbook, or newspaper article) is left to the discretion of each school.

For additional information, you may call 1-800-USA-LEARN (1-800-872-5327) (voice). Individuals who use TDD may call 1-800-437-0833.

Or you may contact us at the following address:

Family Policy Compliance Office
U.S. Department of Education
400 Maryland Avenue, SW
Washington, D.C. 20202-8520

http://www2.ed.gov/policy/gen/guid/fpco/ferpa/index.html

Citation:

GENERAL
Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act Regulations (FERPA)
34 CFR Part 99

Electronic Code of Federal Regulations: Title 34, Part 99–Family Educational Rights and Privacy

The Electronic Code of Federal Regulations (e-CFR) is an editorial compilation of CFR material and Federal Register amendments, updated on a daily basis by the Office of the Federal Register. It is not an official legal edition of the CFR.

FPCO’s unofficial version, current as of January 2012 Download files PDF (260K)

FERPA General Guidance for Students

Downloadable File

PDF (43 KB)

A key case describing the limitations of FERPA is The Chronicle of Higher Education vs. The United States, ELECTRONIC CITATION: 2002 FED App. 0213P (6th Cir.), UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE SIXTH CIRCUIT:

KARL S. FORESTER, District Judge. Intervening Defendant-Appellant The Chronicle of Higher Education (“The Chronicle) contests the district court’s grant of summary judgment and subsequent permanent injunction in favor of Plaintiff-Appellee the United States. Specifically, the district court concluded that university disciplinary records were “educational records” as that term is defined in the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (“FERPA”), 20 U.S.C. § 1232g, and that releasing such records and the personally identifiable information contained therein constitutes a violation of the FERPA. The district court permanently enjoined the Defendants-Appellees Miami University and The Ohio State University (“Miami,” “Ohio State,” or collectively “Universities”) from releasing student disciplinary records or any “personally identifiable information” contained therein, except as otherwise expressly permitted under the FERPA. For the reasons that follow, we AFFIRM. [Emphasis Added]

School districts have to balance the rights of students to an education with the need to know of other parties.

Resources:

FERPA General Guidance for Students

http://ed.gov/policy/gen/guid/fpco/ferpa/students.html

No Child Left Behind A Parents Guide

http://ed.gov/parents/academic/involve/nclbguide/parentsguide.pdf

Dr. Wilda says this about that ©

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