FERPA FAQ

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Can you answer these FERPA frequently asked questions?

Q: What is FERPA?
A:
“FERPA is a federal law that protects the privacy of student education records, and the PII contained therein, maintained by educational agencies or institutions or by a party acting for the agencies or institutions” (PTAC 2019).

Q: “What are the rights of parents and students under FERPA?”
A:
Parents have the right to request and review “ … their children’s education records, the right to seek to have the education records amended, and the right to have some control over the disclosure of PII.” The rights “… transfer to the student when he or she reaches the age of 18 years of attends a postsecondary institution at any age”  (PTAC 2019).     

Q: “What is ‘directory information’ and is it protected by FERPA?”
A:
“FERPA defines ‘directory information’ as information contained in a student’s education record that would not generally be considered harmful or an invasion of privacy if disclosed … A school or district may disclose directory information … if it has given public notice that certain information is considered PII”  (PTAC 2019).

Q: “What is ‘personally identifiable information’ under FERPA?”
A:
“PII is defined to include not only direct identifiers like the student’s name and Social Security number, but also indirect identifiers such as the student’s date and place of birth and the mother’s maiden name. PII also includes ‘other information that, alone or in combination, is linked or linkable to a specific student”  (PTAC 2019). 


This recently released guidance from U.S. Department of Education Privacy Technical Assistance Center discusses how FERPA (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act) relates to student education records and the PII (personally identifiable information) that is contained in them. Any educational institution that receives funds from the U.S. Department of Education must comply with FERPA policies and in addition to having jurisdiction over what PII is disclosed in certain circumstances. The above FAQ are some of the highlights from the guidance in regards to FERPA.

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