Privacy of Educational Records

I remember as a child always trying my best to stay out of trouble because I knew it would go on my “permanent record” for the rest of my life. Well I grew up, and as I grew up I heard less and less about my permanent record or who got to see it and what it was for. Lucky for us there are laws set in place to make sure that your educational records and information aren’t just available for anyone to get their hands on.

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) is a federal law applying to all educational institutions and agencies that receive funding from the U.S. Department of Education, including private and postsecondary schools. But, what constitutes an educational record? As defined by the National Center for Education Statistics: Education records include a range of information about a student that is maintained in schools in any recorded way, such as handwriting, print, computer media, video or audio tape, film, microfilm, and microfiche. Examples are:

• Date and place of birth, parent(s) and/or guardian addresses, and where parents can be contacted in emergencies;

• Grades, test scores, courses taken, academic specializations and activities, and official letters regarding a student’s status in school;

• Special education records;

• Disciplinary records;

• Medical and health records that the school creates or collects and maintains;

• Documentation of attendance, schools attended, courses taken, awards conferred, and degrees earned;

• Personal information such as a student’s identification code, social security number, picture, or other information that would make it easy to identify or locate a student.

FERPA gives access to these records only to parents (custodial and noncustodial) and the student, as well as giving both parties the right to report inaccurate and misleading information to be amended. Once the student is 18 years of age or decides to attend a postsecondary institution then, all rights under FERPA are transferred to the student. With that said schools are required to give parents public notice of the type of information that is made public, which could include personal information such as name, picture, address, etc. at which point parents may choose to ask all or some of the information to be removed.

The Virginia Longitudinal Data System (VLDS) proves to be a useful tool to track and record all of this data safely and securely and provide this valuable information to Virginia educators and policy makers to improve or modify our educational needs.

Below is a brief entertaining video giving insight to the security of educational records. LDL

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