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.

What actions must the agency or institution take to ensure the parent or eligible student receives a timely and fair hearing regarding the amendment of education records?

The educational agency or institution must provide the parent or eligible student notice of the date, time, and place, reasonably in advance of the hearing. The individual conducting the hearing must not have a direct interest in the hearing’s outcome. The agency or institution must give the parent or eligible student a full and fair opportunity to present relevant evidence. Finally, the agency or institution must make its decision in writing within a reasonable period of time after the hearing, and this decision must be based solely on the evidence presented at the hearing, include a summary of the evidence, and give the reasons for the decision.

What are the requirements for access by military recruiters to high school students?

Local educational agencies (LEAs) receiving assistance under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA) are generally required to give military recruiters the same access to secondary school students as they provide to postsecondary institutions or to prospective employers.  LEAs are also generally required to provide students’ names, addresses, and telephone listings to military recruiters, when requested.

What are the requirements of § 9528 of the ESEA, regarding access to student contact information by military recruiters or institutions of higher education?

Each LEA that receives funds under the ESEA must comply with a request by a military recruiter or an institution of higher education for secondary students’ names, addresses, and telephone numbers, unless a parent has “opted out” of providing such information.

Section 9528 also requires LEAs that receive funds under the ESEA to provide military recruiters the same access to secondary school students as they generally provide to postsecondary institutions or prospective employers.  For example, if the school has a policy of allowing postsecondary institutions or prospective employers to come on school property to provide information to students about educational or professional opportunities, it must afford the same access to military recruiters.

What constitutes de-identified records and information?

Records and information are de-identified once all personally identifiable information has been removed, including, but not limited to, any information that, alone or in combination is linkable to a specific student that a reasonable person in the school community, who does not have personal knowledge of the relevant circumstances, to identify the student with reasonable certainty.

What does “articulable and significant threat” mean?

The phrase “articulable and significant threat” means that a school official is able to explain, based on all the information available at the time, what the significant threat is under § 99.36 when he or she makes and records the disclosure.  For instance, if a school official believes that a student poses a significant threat, such as a threat of substantial bodily harm to any person, including to the student, then, under FERPA, the school official may disclose personally identifiable information (PII) from the student’s education records without consent to any person whose knowledge of the information will assist in protecting a person from that threat. This is a flexible standard under which school administrators may bring appropriate resources to bear on the situation. If, based on the information available at the time of the determination, there is a rational basis for the educational agency’s or institution’s decisions about the nature of the emergency and the appropriate parties to whom the information should be disclosed, the Department will not substitute its judgment for that of the school in evaluating the circumstances and making its determination. 

What federal law requires that states provide assurances to the Secretary of Education that they had procedures in place to facilitate the transfer of student disciplinary information with respect to an LEA’s suspension or expulsion of a student?

Section 4155(b) of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), as amended, 20 U.S.C. § 7165(b), required, in accordance with FERPA, each state receiving funds under the ESEA to provide an assurance to the Secretary that it had “a procedure in place to facilitate the transfer of disciplinary records, with respect to a suspension or expulsion, by local educational agencies to any private or public elementary school or secondary school for any student who is enrolled or seeks, intends, or is instructed to enroll, on a full- or part-time basis, in the school.”  LEAs and schools, therefore, should include a notice in their annual notification of rights under FERPA that they forward education records to other schools that have requested the records and in which the student seeks or intends to enroll (§§ 99.7, 99.31(a)(2), and 99.34(a)(1)(ii)).  Unless the school or LEA includes this notice in their annual notification of FERPA rights or the parent or eligible student initiates the transfer of records, the school or LEA otherwise would be required to make a reasonable effort to notify the parent or eligible student of the disclosure at the last known address of the parent or eligible student. 

What is a threat assessment team?

A threat assessment team is a group of officials that convene to identify, evaluate, and address threats or potential threats to school security.  Threat assessment teams review incidents of threatening behavior by students (current and former), parents, school employees, or other individuals.  Some schools may need assistance in determining whether a health or safety emergency exists in order to know whether a disclosure may be made under FERPA’s health or safety emergency provision.  Accordingly, members of a threat assessment team might include officials who can assist in making such decisions, such as school principals, counselors, school law enforcement unit officials, as well as outside medical and mental health professionals and local law enforcement officers.

What is a “law enforcement unit record”?

Law enforcement unit records are records that are: (1) created by a law enforcement unit; (2) created for a law enforcement purpose; and (3) maintained by the law enforcement unit.(34 CFR § 99.8(b)(1)) Law enforcement unit records are not protected by FERPA because they are specifically excluded from the definition of “education records” and, thus, from the privacy protections afforded to parents and eligible students by FERPA.(34 CFR § 99.3, “Education Records”) Therefore, investigative reports and other records created and maintained by law enforcement units that meet this definition are not considered “education records” subject to FERPA and may be released subject to school policy, State law, and other applicable laws.

When members of a school’s law enforcement unit are school officials with access to students’ education records (or to PII contained in those records), they may not re-disclose the records or PII they receive as school officials under FERPA without appropriate consent or except as permitted under FERPA (34 CFR § 99.33), such as if the re-disclosure is to other school officials, or under the health and safety emergency exception. It is, therefore, advisable for law enforcement units to maintain law enforcement unit records separately from education records.