The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) is a federal law that protects the privacy of student education records. The law applies to all schools that receive federal funds under an applicable program of the U.S. Department of Education and gives parents certain rights with respect to their children's education records. The rights include:
- The right to inspect and review the student's education records maintained by the school. Schools are only required to provide a copy of the record when it is impossible for the recipient to review the records as in cases where they are a great distance from the school. The school may charge a fee for copies they provide.
- The right to request that a school correct records which they believe to be inaccurate or misleading. If the school decides not to amend the record, the parent or eligible student then has the right to a formal hearing. After the hearing, if the school still decides not to amend the record, the parent or eligible student has the right to place a statement with the record setting forth their opinion regarding the contested information.
- Generally, schools must have written permission from the parent or eligible student in order to release any information from a student's education record. However, FERPA allows schools to disclose those records, without consent, to certain parties or under certain conditions:
- They may release to school officials with legitimate educational interest;
- They may release to other schools to which a student is transferring;
- They may release to specified officials for audit or evaluation purposes;
- They may release to appropriate parties in connection with financial aid to a student;
- They may release to organizations conducting certain studies for or on behalf of the school;
- They may release to accrediting organizations;
- They may release in order to comply with a judicial order or lawfully issued subpoena;
- They may release to appropriate officials in cases of health and safety emergencies; and
- They may release to state and local authorities, within a juvenile justice system, pursuant to specific State law.
Schools may disclose, without consent, information such as a student's name, address, telephone number, date and place of birth, honors and awards, and dates of attendance but they must tell the parents, guardians and/or eligible students about the directory information and allow them a reasonable amount of time to request that the school not disclose this information about them. Schools must notify parents and eligible students annually of their rights under FERPA. The actual means of notification (special letter, inclusion in a PTA bulletin, student handbook, or newspaper article) is left to the discretion of each school.