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Student Privacy

Student Privacy - PeopleSmart

Student Privacy

Education in the United States is rapidly becoming a multi-trillion-dollar industry, and an increasingly competitive one at that. With so many different groups vying for students’ attention and personal information at younger and younger ages, it is vital for parents and children alike to understand what rights have been afforded to them, and what steps they can take to protect their privacy.

What is FERPA?

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (more commonly referred to as FERPA) is a Federal law that covers any school that receives funds from the US Department of Education, and mandates privacy protections for student education records held by those schools.

What does FERPA cover?

FERPA prevents schools from releasing information about a student’s education record without written permission from the student or a parent, except for the following individuals or scenarios:

  • School officials with a legitimate educational interest (such as teachers)
  • Other schools to which a student is transferring
  • Specific government officials for auditing or evaluation
  • Financial aid applications
  • State or local officials in connection to the juvenile justice system (varies depending on state law)
  • Organizations doing specific types of studies on behalf of the school
  • Accrediting organizations
  • Compliance with a judicial order or subpoena
  • Certain officials during health and safety emergencies

The following information is NOT considered part of a student’s education record and can be released by the school without permission. However, the school must give parents and students the opportunity to opt-out of disclosure:

  • Name and address
  • Telephone number
  • Date and place of birth
  • Honors and awards
  • Dates of attendance
  • Photographs
  • Email address

Other records, such as campus police logs, disciplinary proceedings where the student is found responsible for violent crime or a non-forcible sex offense, or violations of alcohol and drug laws (if under age 21), are also exempt from FERPA. Laws and regulations around these types of records vary greatly depending on the state and the school.

What rights does FERPA give me as a parent?

While your child is under 18, FERPA gives you the following rights:

  • The right to inspect and review your child’s education records. Schools are not required to provide physical copies of their records unless it is impossible for you to review your child’s records in person.
  • The right to request that schools correct records which you believe are inaccurate or misleading. If the school does not correct the records, you have the right to a formal hearing. If the school still chooses not to correct the records after a formal hearing, you have the right to place a note in the record documenting your disagreement with the stated information.

What rights does FERPA give me as a student?

Once you turn 18, you become an "eligible student" and all rights are transferred from your parents to you. This means that your parents may no longer view your education records unless you grant them permission.

What is the PPRA?

The Protection of Pupil Rights Amendment (more commonly referred to as PPRA) is a Federal law that applies to any program receiving funding from the US Department of Education. It provides privacy protections for any minor participating in Department of Education-funded surveys, evaluations, or analyses.

What rights does PPRA give me as a parent?

Before your child participates in any Department of Education-funded survey, evaluation, or analysis, any related instructional materials must be made available for you to inspect. Your written consent is required if the Department of Education-funded survey, evaluation, or analysis reveals information about:

  • Political affiliations
  • Mental and psychological problems that may be potentially embarrassing to your child or family
  • Sexual behaviors and attitudes
  • Illegal, antisocial, self-incriminating or demeaning behavior
  • Appraisal of individuals with whom your child has close family relationships
  • Legally privileged relationships, such as those with lawyers, physicians, and ministers
  • Income (other than information required by law to determine financial assistance)

If you do not wish for your child to share this sort of information, you may opt them out of participation in the survey, evaluation, or analysis.

What can I do if my FERPA or PPRA rights have been violated?

If you feel that you or your child’s rights have been violated, you should file a complaint with the Department of Education Family Policy Compliance Office (FPCO) within 180 days of either the violation itself or when you could reasonably have discovered the violation. In the event that you don’t make the deadline, you can request an extension from the FPCO.

To learn more about the complaint and investigation process, or to get in touch with the FPCO, check out the Additional Resources at the bottom of the page.

What other privacy rights does my child have in school?

In the case Board of Ed. of Independent School Dist. No. 92 of Pottawatomie Cty v. Earls, the Supreme Court ruled that schools could implement a suspicionless drug-testing program for all students participating in extracurricular activities, because those activities are considered voluntary.

In another case, the Supreme Court ruled that students have a right to privacy in their belongings, and cannot have their possessions searched by a school official without reasonable suspicion that the student is violating the law or school policies.

How do state laws affect student privacy rights?

FERPA gives individual states a lot of latitude to shape their own student privacy regulations. As of 2002, 35 states had passed laws requiring more rigorous protection of student privacy, however, the exact range of regulations varies widely. You should contact your state’s Department of Education for more specific details.

What are student profiling surveys?

Unscrupulous data brokerage companies have used student profiling surveys to create databases of students’ personal information, which they would then resell to direct marketers. The companies would mislead teachers into administering these profiling surveys in the classroom under the guise of college admissions and other educational purposes. This practice has been somewhat restricted by the No Child Left Behind Act.

How does the No Child Left Behind Act affect student privacy rights?

Sections of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) mandated that parents be notified about any in-school surveys being administered to their children for sales or marketing purposes, and give them an opportunity to opt their child out. However, certain surveys are exempted from the parental notification and opt-out requirements:

  • College and military recruitment
  • Book clubs and magazines
  • Curriculum and associated instructional material
  • Assessment tests administered by elementary and secondary schools
  • Student-led sales and fundraisers
  • Student recognition programs

What is the ASVAB test?

The Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (more commonly known as ASVAB) test is a skill test administered by the US military, and serves to "provide the field recruiter with a source of leads of high school seniors and juniors qualified through the ASVAB for enlistments into the Active Army and Army Reserve…" according to the Army’s School Recruiting Program Handbook. When a school chooses to administer the ASVAB test, the principal may select Option 8, which does not allow the military to use test results for recruiting. Otherwise, student data and test results will be compiled in the military’s JAMRS database.

What is the JAMRS Database?

The Joint Advertising Market Research Studies (more commonly known as JAMRS) database was created by the US Department of Defense as a recruiting tool to better identify individuals between the ages of 16 and 25 who would be good candidates for military service. Personal information is acquired through marketing companies, as well as sources that normal marketers would not have access to, including Registries of Motor Vehicles and the Selective Service System.

While the Department of Defense does not have a way to keep your child’s personal information out of the JAMRS database, you may still send them an opt-out form that will prevent recruiters from accessing the information. For more information or to get a JAMRS opt-out form, visit the NYCLU website.