FERPA stands for Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act. It is a federal law (20 U.S.C. § 1232g; 34 CFR Part 99) that was put in place to allow parents access to their child’s educational records while protecting the privacy of that information from public disclosure. It’s not a new law, but it is one that few families are aware of.
Under FERPA, a parent, or student, once he/she reaches the age of 18, has the right to review his/her child’s educational records. If you want to see your child’s records, submit a written request to the school district. You don’t have to say why you want them—it’s your right. The school is typically not required to give you copies of the records, but they must allow you time to review them at the school. Practically speaking, most districts will provide copies to a parent or attorney upon request, rather than require you to come in and inspect them. The district is permitted to charge you a reasonable fee for copies of the records. Note, though, that if there is personally identifiable information about another student in your child’s educational records, this information will be blocked out on your copies, as you are not entitled to such information about another student.
If, upon a review of your child’s records, you come across inaccurate or misleading information, you have the right to request that the information be removed from the child’s records. Note that you can’t change something because it looks bad on your child’s record, such as a bad grade or a disciplinary action, or because you disagree with someone’s opinion or perception as noted in a record.
If the request for removal is denied, the parent has the right to request a formal hearing on the matter with the district. If, after the formal hearing, the district determines that they will not remove/change the inaccurate or misleading information, the parent has the right to provide a written statement of their disagreement to the district, which will then be kept in the student’s file with the record that is disputed.
FERPA also protects the privacy of your child’s information. Except under very limited circumstances (court order, etc.), a school district is not permitted to allow others to see your child’s educational records without your prior consent, aside from directory type information like name, address, age, phone number, date and place of birth, honors and awards, and dates of attendance. This includes photographs and videos of your child. Note that this privacy right applies against employees of the district. Unless they are currently working with your child or have some other legitimate NEED to know information contained in your child’s records (as opposed to a WANT to know the inside scoop), they do NOT have a right to see those records without your prior consent.
Most families will not have a need to request their child’s educational records (more paperwork–who wants that?!), but if the need arises, you know you have the right to make your record request under FERPA.