The key federal law dealing with student privacy is the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, also known as FERPA. However, student privacy is also affected by the No Child Left Behind Act as well as numerous other federal and state laws. Provided here is a brief guide to the issues.
Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act
FERPA applies to every educational body, public or private, regardless of grade level, which receives federal funding. In practice, this covers virtually every school, college and educational agency in the United States.
In general, FERPA prevents schools from releasing personally identifiable information about any student without the consent of the student, or if the student is a minor, a parent. However, records may be released to those with a legitimate reason for the request, including financial aid officials, auditors, and other schools that the student plans to attend. Records may also be released in health and safety emergencies and in compliance with a subpoena.
Directory information may be released unless the student or parent opts out. Depending on the school, directory information may include the student's full name, date and place of birth, address, dates of attendance, major field of study, degrees earned, photograph, e-mail address and other statistics. Schools may also release students' addresses and telephone numbers to military recruiters unless a parent or student opts out.
Information may also be made public about the final outcome of any disciplinary proceedings in which a student was found guilty of violence or a sex offense. Post-secondary institutions are also permitted to inform parents if a student under age 21 violates a school policy or law dealing with drug or alcohol use.