The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) affords parents and students who are 18 years of age or older ("eligible students") certain rights with respect to the student's education records. These rights are:
1. The right to inspect and review the student's education records within 45 days after the day Birmingham Public Schools receives a request for access.
Parents or eligible students who wish to inspect their child’s or their education records should submit to the school principal a written request that identifies the records they wish to inspect. The school principal will make arrangements for access and notify the parent or eligible student of the time and place where the records may be inspected.
2. The right to request the amendment of the student’s education records that the parent or eligible student believes are inaccurate, misleading, or otherwise in violation of the student’s privacy rights under FERPA.
Parents or eligible students who wish to ask Birmingham Public Schools to amend their child’s or their education record should submit to the school principal, a written request that clearly identifies the part of the record they want changed, and specify why, in their opinion, it should be changed. If Birmingham Public Schools decides not to amend the record as requested by the parent or eligible student, Birmingham Public Schools will notify the parent or eligible student of the decision and of their right to a hearing regarding the request for amendment. Additional information regarding the hearing procedures will be provided to the parent or eligible student when notified of the right to a hearing.
The right to provide written consent before the school discloses personally identifiable information (PII) from the student's education records, except to the extent that FERPA authorizes disclosure without con¬sent.
3. The right to file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education concerning alleged failures by Birmingham Public Schools to comply with the requirements of FERPA. The name and address of the Office that administers FERPA are:
Family Policy Compliance Office
U.S. Department of Education
400 Maryland Avenue, SW
Washington, DC 20202-5920
Disclosure of Information from Education Records to Parents of Students Attending Postsecondary Institutions
Recently many questions have arisen concerning the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), the federal law that protects the privacy of students’ education records. The Department wishes to clarify what FERPA says about postsecondary institutions sharing information with parents.
What are parents’ and students’ rights under FERPA?
At the K-12 school level, FERPA provides parents with the right to inspect and review their children’s education records, the right to seek to amend information in the records they believe to be inaccurate, misleading, or an invasion of privacy, and the right to consent to the disclosure of personally identifiable information from their children’s education records. When a student turns 18 years old or enters a postsecondary institution at any age, these rights under FERPA transfer from the student’s parents to the student. Under FERPA, a student to whom the rights have transferred is known as an “eligible student.” Although the law does say that the parents’ rights afforded by FERPA transfer to the “eligible student,” FERPA clearly provides ways in which an institution can share education records on the student with his or her parents.
While concerns have been expressed about the limitations on the release of information, there are exceptions to FERPA’s general rule that educational agencies and institutions subject to FERPA may not have a policy or practice of disclosing “education records” without the written consent of the parent (at the K-12 level) or the “eligible student.”
When may a school disclose information to parents of dependent students?
Under FERPA, schools may release any and all information to parents, without the consent of the eligible student, if the student is a dependent for tax purposes under the IRS rules.
Can a school disclose information to parents in a health or safety emergency?
The Department interprets FERPA to permit schools to disclose information from education records to parents if a health or safety emergency involves their son or daughter.
Can parents be informed about students’ violation of alcohol and controlled substance rules?
Another provision in FERPA permits a college or university to let parents of students under the age of 21 know when the student has violated any law or policy concerning the use or possession of alcohol or a controlled substance.
Can a school disclose law enforcement unit records to parents and the public?
Additionally, under FERPA, schools may disclose information from “law enforcement unit records” to anyone – including parents or federal, State, or local law enforcement authorities – without the consent of the eligible student. Many colleges and universities have their own campus security units. Records created and maintained by these units for law enforcement purposes are exempt from the privacy restrictions of FERPA and can be shared with anyone.
Can school officials share their observations of students with parents?
Nothing in FERPA prohibits a school official from sharing with parents information that is based on that official’s personal knowledge or observation and that is not based on information contained in an education record. Therefore, FERPA would not prohibit a teacher or other school official from letting a parent know of their concern about their son or daughter that is based on their personal knowledge or observation.
How does HIPAA apply to students’ education records?
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) is a law passed by Congress intended to establish transaction, security, privacy, and other standards to address concerns about the electronic exchange of health information. However, the HIPAA Privacy Rule excludes from its coverage those records that are protected by FERPA at school districts and postsecondary institutions that provide health or medical services to students. This is because Congress specifically addressed how education records should be protected under FERPA. For this reason, records that are protected by FERPA are not subject to the HIPAA Privacy Rule and may be shared with parents under the circumstances described above.