The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) protects the privacy a child’s student records. It applies to all public schools that are funded by the U.S. Department of Education. The Act essentially gives parents certain rights to access their child’s student records. However, these rights transfer to the child after she has either turned 18 or graduated from high school, whichever comes first.

What Kind of Rights Concerning Student Records Does FERPA Grant to Parents and Students?

There are a variety of rights concerning student records that this act gives to students who are eligible (i.e., 18+ or high school graduate) and to parents:

  • Parents and eligible students have the right to see the student’s education records that are maintained by the school. However, this does not mean the school must provide them with a copy of the records (unless there is no other way for the parents or student to see the records because of location). Also, the school is allowed to charge for providing copies and shipping of the records.
  • Eligible students and parents also have the right to request that a school correct any information on the records that the parents or students believe to be incorrect or misleading. If the school refuses to change the information, parents then have the right to have to a formal hearing to decide the issue. If the hearing is decided in the school’s favor and no changes are mandated, then the parents or students are permitted to put their own statement in the record telling their version of what information they have contested.

Can Schools Release a Student’s Educational Records to Anyone?

No. Generally, a school can only release a student’s educational records to parties other than the parents or the eligible student by getting written consent from the parents or eligible student. However, there are some exceptions to this rule:

  • School officials with educational-related interests can see student records without prior permission from the parents or eligible students
  • Schools to which a student is transferring can obtain the records without prior permission
  • Officials connected with financial aid that is being provided for the student can obtain her records without permission
  • A subpoena can take the place of written consent by parents or students if law enforcement officials wish to obtain the student’s records

Should I Consult a Lawyer?

If you feel you or your child’s rights to see student records or to keep them private have been violated, you may want to contact a family law attorney. An experienced attorney can advise you of your rights and let you know if you may be entitled to an injunction or money damages in a lawsuit against the school.