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Privacy of School Records laws

Information on the law about Privacy of School RecordsFERPA

The question of the right of privacy and, specifically, who should have access to student records has divided parents and students from school teachers and administrators. There are strong arguments on both sides. School teachers and administrators believe, traditionally, that they should be able to deal with the children they teach in utter confidence—especially when it comes to evaluation of ability, behavior, and psychological factors. School administrators may have critical opinions and evaluations to make and pass on to colleagues in order to effectively deal with a particular student's potential for success or failure in school. Release of these opinions to the family or the student may actually have a detrimental effect on the student and/or the teacher or the school's ability to help the student.

On the other hand, students and parents have a deep interest in knowing how they or their child is evaluated—to know what school administrators are saying about the child and what impact those opinions are having on his or her progress in school. Parents may worry that negative evaluations or assessments may be off-base, inaccurate, or the result of an objective evaluation that misses personal situations and emotions. In addition, negative evaluations may be the result of physical or psychological handicaps or deficiencies in ability that need special attention and may be helped if parents or students are made aware of them. Parents have a responsibility for the quality of education that their children receive as well as a right to participate in decisions that affect class placement and particular courses and subjects taught.

This dynamic between the parents' right to have input into their child's education and the school's responsibility to professionally teach and discipline its students is what has driven the development of certain privacy rules. There is also a new dynamic that is becoming a factor in education and, specifically, access to records: over the last thirty years, the growing disillusionment with our traditional education system, which insisted on certain standards of performance for all students, has given way to the belief that each child has different learning curves and behavioral norms that need to be respected. As a result, standards of education and behavior are no longer standard and regular but adjust to the needs, wants, and potential of each student and his or her family. In order to monitor the attention that individual children are getting, laws have guaranteed parents access to student records.

Another area concerning school records that is becoming an issue encompasses child abuse, neglect, and personal health. With today's broader definition of abuse, a family's religious convictions or practices, cultural heritage, social orientation, or lack of awareness may qualify. In an extreme example, state authorities took custody of minor children because their parents failed to keep their children's dental appointments! There may be a need for parents to monitor school records in order to see that educators are not misinterpreting and misconstruing various family customs, practices, and behavior or undermining certain training being done at home.

The Family Educational Records Protection Act (FERPA) was originally passed in 1976 and has been amended many times since. Its purpose is to guarantee parents free access to student school records. Under provisions of the Act, the Secretary of Education has the authority to withhold all federal funding to institutions that do not make school records available to a student's parents. There are exceptions to this rule, such as authorizing the transfer of transcripts when a student changes schools or applies for admission elsewhere, for researchers doing studies of educational techniques and practices when such research can be conducted confidentially and anonymously, for state or federal officials conducting audits of public assistance programs, or in the course of normal business. Many states now rely on FERPA to protect student privacy and insure parental access. A few states have gone beyond the protections of the federal act.

Table 17: Privacy of School Records

State Code Section Who Has Access Penalties
FEDERAL 20 U.S.C. §1232g Family Educational Records Protection Act Parents, specifically authorized state or federal officials for purposes of auditing public assistance programs; when student reaches 18 years old, right belongs to student only; researchers for purposes of gathering data to improve educational testing or educational curriculum (provided privacy is protected), authorized school administrators or other educational institutions as authorized by student or parents for purposes of application for admission to an educational institution or for employment. Withdrawal of all federal funding
ALABAMA 36-12-40 Parent of minor child may inspect regulation and circulation records of any school that pertain to his child.  
ALASKA 25.20.130 Both custodial and non-custodial parent  
ARIZONA 15-141 Governed by FERPA; Department of Juvenile Corrections has access to any pupil referred. Injunctive or special relief by Superior Court
ARKANSAS 6-20-510 Records regarding handicapped students or foster children are to be kept confidential by respective school districts and Department of Education.  
CALIFORNIA Educ. §§49060, et seq. Implements FERPA and eliminates conflicts with it.  
COLORADO 22-2-111; 24-72-204 Unless contrary to federal, state or judicial law, law enforcement officers have access without parental consent. Student records are confidential except when requested by the governor or a committee of the general assembly.  
CONNECTICUT 10-154a Communication relating to alcohol or drugs between the nurse and student need not be disclosed to parent.  
DELAWARE Tit. 14 §4111 Confidential with stated exceptions: duly authorized government agency; authorized school personnel by request of pupil aged 14 or older; parent/guardian. Unless malice can be proven, no cause of action for participation in formulation or disclosure of records
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA 38-607 Student's health file shall be confidential and subject to inspection, disclosure, and use only as applicable District and federal law  
FLORIDA 1002.21, et seq. FERPA mostly implemented. Parents and pupils have access; after pupil is 18 or attending post-secondary educational institution, the right belongs to the student only. Injunctive relief and attorney's fees and court costs may be awarded
GEORGIA 20-2-720 Both parents (includes noncustodial parent unless court order removed right or terminated parental rights)  
HAWAII 302A-1144; 302A-1137 Parents or guardians of child under 18; authorized police officers have access to attendance records or student  

Table 17: Privacy of School Records—Continued

State Code Section Who Has Access Penalties
IDAHO 32-717A Custodial and non-custodial parent  
ILLINOIS 105 ILCS 10/1, et seq. Inspection allowed by students and parents but restricted to third parties. Exceptions listed in 105 ILCS 10/6 (1-9). Information communicated in confidence by a student or parents to school personnel is not available. All rights and privileges become student's exclusively at age 18. Damages and other remedies available
INDIANA 20-10.1-22.4-1 & 2 Custodial and noncustodial parent, unless court order limiting noncustodial parent  
IOWA 22.7 Student's personal information in records is confidential.  
KANSAS 72-6214 Governed by FERPA.  
KENTUCKY 164.283; KY Rules of Evid. R. 506 Parents of any student under age 21. Counselor-student communications are privileged. All student academic records are confidential with exemptions cited in 164.283 (3)-(10).  
LOUISIANA L.S.A R.S. 9-351 Custodial and non-custodial parent has right to inspect child's records.  
MAINE Tit. 20-A §6001 Governed by FERPA.  
MARYLAND State Gov't. 10-616 (k) Teacher's, principal's, or counselor's observations during consultations are not admissible as evidence against student. Only "persons in interest" or "an elected or appointed official who supervises the student" may inspect student's records.  
MASSACHUSETTS Ch. 71 §34A, G Student (transcript), parent, guardian, student over 18 may inspect.  
MICHIGAN 600.2165 In legal proceedings, counselors, teachers, and school employees may not disclose information or records of student's behavior received in confidence without consent.  
MINNESOTA 13.02, et seq. Records are private except for directory information and shall be released only pursuant to valid court order. Minor may request information to be withheld from parent or guardian if in best interest of minor. Willful violation by political subdivision: exemplary damages of not less than $100 and not more than $10,000 for each violation; injunctive relief
MISSISSIPPI 37-15-3 Governed by FERPA; records not available to the general public.  
MISSOURI No known provisions    
MONTANA 7-1-4144 Public records private unless person they concern requests them to be public.  
NEBRASKA 84-712.05, et seq. Records withheld from public unless disclosed in court or administrative proceeding or for routine directory information. Violation by official: subject to removal or impeachment and class III misdemeanor

Table 17: Privacy of School Records—Continued

State Code Section Who Has Access Penalties
NEVADA 49.290, 291; 125.520 Both custodial and non-custodial parent; communication between counselor-pupil or teacher-pupil is privileged.  
NEW HAMPSHIRE 91-A:5 Exempted from public access.  
NEW JERSEY 18A:36-19 Parent/guardian or pupil with reasonable protection of privacy rights. State board of education establishes rules.  
NEW MEXICO 40-4-9.1 (J) (4) (C) Both custodial and non-custodial parent  
NEW YORK Educ §3222 Parent applies for schooling record for complying minor.  
NORTH CAROLINA 8-53.4; 115C-174.13; 115C-402 Not subject to public inspection; minimum competency test scores of students not public and available consistent with FERPA; counselor communication privileged. May be obtained by parent or student upon request.  
NORTH DAKOTA 15.1-24-04 Any record of student's medical treatment is confidential and may not be released without written consent of student; if student is under 14, written consent of student's parent/guardian is required.  
OHIO Title 1 §149.41, Title 33 §3319.32.1 No release without student's consent if over 18; if 18 or under, consent of parent or guardian is necessary. Directory information may be released. Rights of school district to renew or select student records are restricted.  
OKLAHOMA Tit. 51 §24A.16; Tit. 70 §6-115 Confidential except for directory information; teacher may not reveal student-obtained information unless required by contract or released to a parent or guardian of such child on request. May be released for program evaluation and program effectiveness. May be released to student or parent upon request. Misdemeanor for teacher to reveal information regarding any child except as required in performance of contractual duties or requested by parents.
OREGON 336.187; 326.565 Consistent with state and federal law regarding record custody and disclosure; may be transferred by request when student transfers schools or is placed in a state institution; disclosure allowed to law enforcement and/or child protective services and/or health professionals in "health or safety emergency."  
PENNSYLVANIA Tit. 23 §5309; Tit. 24§1409 Both parents; child's school health record transferred to other PA school or to parent/guardian. Court may deny access to records when domestic violence is present in family.  

Table 17: Privacy of School Records—Continued

State Code Section Who Has Access Penalties
RHODE ISLAND 16-38-5 No specific provisions. Misdemeanor to circulate a questionnaire "so framed as to ask intimate questions about themselves or families, thus trespassing upon the pupils' constitutional rights and invading the privacy of the home" without approval of local school commissioner and department of education; can be fined $50 or imprisoned for not more than 30 days
SOUTH CAROLINA 30-1-10, et seq. Records of school district considered public records and dealt with according to Title 30. Any person who unlawfully removes or destroys records is fined between $200 and $5,000 and guilty of a misdemeanor; failure to deliver is a misdemeanor and may yield a fine of $500
SOUTH DAKOTA 19-13-21.1; 25-5-7.3; 27B-6-2 Access may not be denied parent who is not child's primary residential parent. County board of mental retardation has access to the school records of any case under investigation. School counselors' communications are privileged except in cases of child abuse or if waived.  
TENNESSEE 10-7-504 School records are confidential except when compelled under legal process or released for safety of person or property. Outsiders are authorized access to pupil records for research and statistical purposes and pupil or guardian may give consent for others to have access.  
TEXAS Educ. 26.004 Parent has access to all written records concerning the parent's child.  
UTAH 53A-3-402.1 School will release to custodial parent or non-custodial parent unless court order restricts non-custodial parent and school has a copy of such record.  
VERMONT Tit. 1 §317(11) Records are exempt from public inspection and copying unless request is made pursuant to FERPA (P.L. 93-380)  
VIRGINIA 2.2-3700 et seq. Available to parents and student only unless parent/guardian consents to release.  
WASHINGTON 42.17.310 Personal information in school records exempt from public inspection and copying.  
WEST VIRGINIA No known provisions    

Table 17: Privacy of School Records—Continued

State Code Section Who Has Access Penalties
WISCONSIN 118.125, 126 All records confidential. Pupil, parents, courts and school officials (under certain circumstances), and persons designated by parents or pupil may receive a copy upon request; behavioral records must be destroyed one year after student is no longer enrolled unless student permits by written consent. Student's records as they relate to health are treated as health records: school psychologist, counselor, social worker and nurse, teacher, or administrator working in alcohol or drug abuse program activities shall keep student communications regarding such confidential unless pupil consents to disclosure or if there is serious and imminent danger to anyone's health or safety or if required to be disclosed by law.  
WYOMING No known provisions    

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