Frequently Asked Questions

This section is designed to allow stakeholders easy access to all Frequently Asked Questions about student privacy.  All of the questions contained on this page have been tagged for easy browsing by either topic or audience.  This section is regularly updated as new questions are received.  You may also search the FAQs by using the search box on the top right of the page.

How long does an educational agency or institution have to comply with a request to view records?

FERPA requires that educational agencies and institutions comply with a request by a parent or eligible student for access to education records within a reasonable period of time, but not more than 45 days after receipt of a request.  Some States have laws that may require that parents and eligible students be granted access in a shorter time period.  34 CFR § 99.10(b).

I want to use online tool or application as part of my course. However, I am worried that it is a violation of FERPA. What should I do?

A teacher should first check with their school/district administration to see if that application or service is approved for use in the classroom.  Any applications or services that collect personally identifiable information (PII) from students’ education records under the school officials exception to prior consent in FERPA must:

  • Provides a service or function that the school would otherwise use its own staff
  • Be under the direct control of the school with regard to the use and maintenance of the PII from education records
  • Collection and use of the PII must be consistent with the school or district’s annual notification of rights under FERPA
  • Not re-disclose or use the education data for unauthorized purposes.

Remember that the use of some applications or services may introduce security or privacy vulnerabilities into the school or districts IT systems.  Teachers should always consult their IT representatives to discuss the use of these types of software tools prior to use to ensure compliance with FERPA requirements and promote a safe, secure computing environment. 

If a student under 18 is enrolled in both high school and a local college, do parents have the right to inspect and review his or her education records?

If a student is attending a postsecondary institution - at any age - the rights under FERPA have transferred to the student.  However, in a situation where a student is enrolled in both a high school and a postsecondary institution, the two schools may exchange information on that student.  If the student is under 18, the parents still retain the rights under FERPA at the high school and may inspect and review any records sent by the postsecondary institution to the high school.  Additionally, the postsecondary institution may disclose personally identifiable information from the student’s education records to the parents, without the consent of the eligible student, if the student is a dependent for tax purposes under the IRS rules. Dual Enrollment Dually Enrolled

 

If a video is an education record for multiple students, can a parent of one of the students or the eligible student view the video?

When a video is an education record of multiple students, in general, FERPA requires the educational agency or institution to allow, upon request, an individual parent of a student (or the student if the student is an eligible student) to whom the video directly relates to inspect and review the video. FERPA generally does not require the educational agency or institution to release copies of the video to the parent or eligible student. 

In providing access to the video, the educational agency or institution must provide the parent of the student (or the student if the student is an eligible student) with the opportunity to inspect and review the video. If the educational agency or institution can reasonably redact or segregate out the portions of the video directly related to other students, without destroying the meaning of the record, then the educational agency or institution would be required to do so prior to providing the parent or eligible student with access. On the other hand, if redaction or segregation of the video cannot reasonably be accomplished, or if doing so would destroy the meaning of the record, then the parents of each student to whom the video directly relates (or the students themselves if they are eligible students) would have a right under FERPA to access the entire record even though it also directly relates to other students.

For a fuller legal analysis and explanation of this issue, please see the 2017 Letter to Wachter.

If a video is an education record for multiple students, can the parent of one of the students (or the eligible student) receive a copy of the video?

While we do not advise on an educational agency’s or institution’s obligations under any state open records laws that may apply, we note that FERPA does not generally require an educational agency or institution to provide copies of education records to parents and eligible students[1]. That said, it would not violate FERPA for an educational agency or institution to non-consensually disclose to an eligible student or to his or her parents copies of education records that the eligible student or his or her parents otherwise would have the right to inspect and review under FERPA.

For a fuller legal analysis and explanation of this issue, please see the 2017 Letter to Wachter.


[1] If circumstances effectively prevent the parent or eligible student from otherwise exercising their right to inspect and review the student’s education records (e.g., if the parent lives outside of commuting distance to the school), then the educational agency or institution would be required to either provide a copy of the records or to make other arrangements for the parent or eligible student to inspect and review the records. 34 CFR § 99.10(d)

If redaction or segregation of an education record of multiple students can be reasonably accomplished without destroying the meaning of the education record...

can educational agencies and institutions charge parents or eligible students for the costs of the redaction or segregation?

No. FERPA provides parents and eligible students with the right to inspect and review the student’s education records, and nothing in the FERPA statute or regulations permits educational agencies and institutions to charge parents or eligible students for fees or costs associated with exercising that right.

If a school elects to provide a parent or eligible student with a copy of the education records, then the FERPA regulations (34 CFR § 99.11(a)) generally permit (with the exception noted below) the school to charge for the costs required to make the copy. FERPA regulations (34 CFR § 99.11(b)) also provide that the school may not charge a parent or eligible student for the costs to search for or retrieve the education records. We view the costs, if any, to the school of redacting, or segregating, education records of multiple students as being like the costs of search and retrieval that may not be charged to parents or eligible students, rather than like the costs for copies that generally may be charged to parents and eligible students. As noted above, if an educational agency or institution can reasonably redact or segregate out portions of an education record that is directly related to other students, without destroying the meaning of the record, then the educational agency or institution must do so and therefore cannot charge parents or eligible students for the costs associated with exercising their right to inspect and review such education records.

In contrast, parents and eligible students generally may be charged for the costs of making copies of education records precisely because FERPA generally does not require the school to provide them with such copies. Thus, where the redaction or segregation of education records of multiple students can be reasonably accomplished without destroying the meaning of the education records, nothing in FERPA permits educational agencies or institutions to charge parents or eligible students for the costs of making the required redactions or segregation. Please note that the FERPA regulations (34 CFR § 99.11(a)) similarly provide that if a fee for copies effectively prevents a parent or an eligible student from exercising the right to inspect and review his or her education records, an educational agency or institution would be required to provide copies without payment. Such cases would be limited to a parent or an eligible student providing evidence of the inability to pay for the copies due to financial hardship.

May a postsecondary institution disclose financial aid records without written consent?

FERPA permits institutions to disclose, without consent, personally identifiable information from students’ education records when the disclosure is in connection with a student's application for, or receipt of, financial aid. Disclosures under this exception to consent may be made if the information is necessary for such purposes as to:  (a) determine eligibility for the aid; (b) determine the amount of the aid; (c) determine the conditions for the aid; or (d) enforce the terms and conditions of the aid.

May a postsecondary institution disclose information about a disciplinary proceeding to the victim of a crime of violence or a non-forcible sex offense?

Yes, a postsecondary institution may disclose only the final results of the disciplinary proceeding to a victim of an alleged perpetrator of a crime of violence or a non-forcible sex offense. The institution may disclose to the victim the final results of the disciplinary proceeding regardless of whether the institution concluded a violation was committed.