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.

If a school or LEA discloses personally identifiable information (PII) from education records to a community-based organization under a FERPA exception to consent, what and how much PII from education records can it disclose to the organization?

The school or LEA has discretion under FERPA to decide what and how much PII from education records to disclose to community-based organizations (except in certain cases such as a court order or a subpoena).  The school or LEA should determine which data elements are necessary for the activity in question and provide only those elements.  Often LEAs and schools will discover that the organization can do the work in question without receiving PII from education records.

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.

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 an LEA has not provided notice relating to directory information, may it release a students name, address, and telephone number when requested by a military recruiter?

An LEA may provide a single notice regarding both directory information and information disclosed to military recruiters.  If an LEA does not disclose “directory information” under FERPA, then it must still provide military recruiters access to secondary students’ names, addresses, and telephone listings.  In addition, the LEA must notify parents that they may opt out of this disclosure.  In other words, an LEA that does not disclose “directory information” must nonetheless provide a notice that it discloses information to military recruiters.  The notice must be reasonably calculated to inform parents.

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.

If the school does not list one or more of name, address, and telephone listing among its directory information, may it release that information to military recruiters?

If a school does not designate one or more of the three items as “directory information” under FERPA, it still must provide all three items to military recruiters upon request.  Also, in that case, the school would have to send a separate notice to parents about the missing “directory information” item(s), noting an opportunity to opt out of disclosure of the information to military recruiters.  An easier method, of course, would be for the school to designate all three items – name, address, and telephone listing – as “directory information.”

In the case of a divorce, do both parents have rights under FERPA?

Generally, yes.  Unless a school is provided with evidence that there is a court order, state law, or other legally binding document relating to such matters as divorce, separation, or custody that specifically provides to the contrary, FERPA gives custodial and noncustodial parents alike certain rights with respect to their children’s education records. A school may ask for legal certification denoting parenthood, such as a birth certificate or court order, from the parent requesting access.

Source: 34 CFR § 99.4