Department of Education

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Family Education Rights & Privacy Act (FERPA) This act is also known as the Buckley amendment as Sen. James Buckley of New York introduced the language in 1974. His intent was twofold: to ensure that parents and adult students could correct errors and address damaging material in the records file and to ensure that schools would develop and follow policies guaranteeing access to the records by the parent or student. It also provided protection of information in the education record as it required that the student or parent give consent for information from the record to be disclosed. The bill tied participation in federal funding to schools to encourage compliance. Education records were defined as those that pertain directly to the student and maintained by the institution (1). Personal information protected by the act includes:

  • identifying data
  • academic work completed
  • level of achievement (grades, standardized test scores, aptitude test results, interest inventories)
  • attendance data
  • health data
  • family background
  • teacher or counselor ratings
  • verbal reports of serious or recurrent behavior patterns

But there are four types of information not included in the definition of 'educational record' and not protected by FERPA:

  • records in the sole possession of instructional, supervisory or administrative personnel
  • records of law enforcement kept apart from educational records
  • records of employees who are not students at the institution
  • physician, psychologist or psychiatrist treatment records(2).

Health informaticists, IS security officers and other concerned with data security should be aware of FERPA requirements, particularly as there is interaction with the Health Insurance Portability & Accountability Act (HIPAA). For example, an educational institution providing health services to its students will likely be interpreted as acting as a 'covered entity' as defined by HIPAA for responsibility for privacy of the students' information. However, the HIPAA privacy rule excludes from coverage those records protected by FERPA. Other acts of concern to healthcare include the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Part B of that legislation specifies that covered individuals are subject to FERPA protection for medical or health related records(3).

References (1) Student Press Law Center 'White Paper - FERPA and Access to Public Records' ferpa_wp.pdf (2) 'Legislative History of Major FERPA Provisions' (3) 'Family Educational Rights & Privacy Act'