The Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA)

Kathy Giordano

What is FERPA?

FERPA is a federal statute. The purposes of FERPA are twofold:

  • to ensure that parents have access to their children’s educational records and
  • to protect the privacy rights of parents and children by limiting access to these records without parental consent.
  • Manage misleading or incorrect information
  • Both Custodial and noncustodial parents have the right to access their children’s records, the right to seek to have records amended, and the right to consent to disclosure

Under FERPA, a school must provide a parent an opportunity to inspect/review his/her child’s educational records within 45 days following receipt of request. It is best to put this request in writing.  Also, an employee of school is allowed to stay with parent during review and 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, though many do not.

“Education Records” refer to those records that contain information directly related to a student and are maintained by the school or a party acting for the school. When student reaches 18 years of age or attends a postsecondary institution, he or she becomes an “eligible student” and all rights under FERPA transfer from the parent to the student.

Who is subject to FERPA rules

FERPA applies to all agencies and institutions that receive federal funds, including elementary and secondary schools, colleges, and universities. The statute is in the United States Code at 20 U. S. C. 1232g and 1232h. The regulations are in the Code of Federal Regulations at 34 C.F.R Part 99.

Private and parochial schools generally do not receive funding and are not subject to FERPA


Records Amended

Parents may request that information which is either misleading, inaccurate or violates privacy or rights of student be amended.

If  school refuses, parents may request an Impartial Hearing or attach a statement to the record. They must be remain attached as long as school maintains records.


Written Release Permission

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.