for Educators

Federal Laws

FAMILY EDUCATIONAL RIGHTS AND PRIVACY ACT (FERPA)

Information in a student’s education record is governed by FERPA, a federal law enacted in 1974 that guarantees that parents have access to their child’s education record and restricts who can access and use student information. FERPA protects the access to and sharing of a student’s education record, which is all information directly related to a particular student as part of his or her education. FERPA gives parents specific rights to their child’s education records and when a child turns 18, the rights belong directly to him or her.

FERPA also permits schools to share information with another school system regarding a student’s enrollment or transfer, specified officials for audit or evaluation purposes; appropriate parties in connection with financial aid to a student; organizations conducting certain studies for or on behalf of the school; and accrediting organizations. The “school official” exception allows schools to share information with parent volunteers, technology companies or other vendors, but only when used for educational purposes directed by the school. Directory Information, another FERPA exception, is student data that a school may make public, for example a sports team roster, yearbook information or even data that can be provided to third parties, but parents must be given the opportunity to opt-out.

THE PROTECTION OF PUPIL RIGHTS AMENDMENT (PPRA)

PPRA outlines restrictions for the process when students might be asked for information as part of federally funded surveys or evaluations.

For example, surveys might be used to better understand the effects on students of drug and alcohol use, or sexual conduct. They might also seek to understand the impact on students with family backgrounds that include violence, or variations in home life such as family makeup or income levels. In order to administer such surveys, schools must be able to show parents any of the survey materials used, and provide parents with choices for any surveys that deal with certain sensitive categories.

THE CHILDREN’S ONLINE PRIVACY PROTECTION ACT (COPPA)

COPPA controls what information is collected from young children by companies operating websites, games, and mobile applications directed toward children under 13.

COPPA requires companies to have a clear privacy policy, provide direct notice to parents, and obtain parental consent before collecting information from children under 13. Teachers and other school officials are authorized to provide this consent on behalf of parents for use of an educational program, but only for use in the educational context.

This means the company can only collect personal information from students for the specified educational purpose, and for no other commercial purpose. Some schools have policies that require school administrator approval before teachers can allow use of certain apps or services. When information is collected with the consent of a school official, the company may keep the information only as long as necessary to achieve the educational purposes.