Family Educations Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA)

New privacy rules for schools released; World Privacy Forum comments had positive impact for student and parent privacy

School privacy | FERPA — In May 2008 the World Privacy Forum submitted detailed comments on proposed changes to the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act regulations (FERPA). The FERPA regulations are the rules that control how schools treat and release student information. The final FERPA regulations have now been published and reveal that the World Privacy Forum comments had a positive impact. The new regulations agreed with WPF’s comment that if a school requests a Federal tax return from a parent, that the parent has the right to redact all financial information from the form, and affirmed that the school does not have a requirement to ask for the tax form in the first place. The regulations also agreed with the WPF comment that the risk of re-identification of published student information is cumulative, and made recommendations that educational institutions take into account all releases of student information it has made, not just new releases.

World Privacy Forum files comments on proposed changes to FERPA; requests changes to protect student and parent privacy

FERPA — The U.S. Department of Education has published proposed changes to its FERPA regulations, FERPA standing for the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act. FERPA is a significant regulation that controls how students’ school records and “directory” information may be shared. The proposed regulations have one item the WPF is supporting, which is that SSNs are not considered part of the directory information. However, other aspects of the proposed regulation still need work to adequately protect students’ and parents’ privacy interests. The WPF commented in particular that schools should not be allowed to request and then store a full tax refund from parents in order to prove students’ eligibility. The Forum also requested that students’ electronic identifiers are not included in the definition of directory information. One area of substantial concern is that the Department of Education has not expressly provided that students who opt-out of having their directory information shared should not be penalized for opting out. Currently, the proposed regulations may be read to suggest that schools may be able to deny benefits, services, or even required activities to students who have exercised the right to opt-out of the publication of directory information. FERPA comments may be filed until close of business Eastern time May 8, 2008.

Public Comments: May 2008 – Proposed changes to FERPA don’t protect student and parent privacy

FERPA comments: WPF is concerned about the U.S. Department of Education’s proposed changes to its FERPA regulations, FERPA standing for the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act. FERPA is a significant regulation that controls how students’ school records and “directory” information may be shared. The proposed regulations have one item the WPF is supporting, which is that SSNs are not considered part of the directory information. However, other aspects of the proposed regulation still need work to adequately protect students’ and parents’ privacy interests. The WPF commented in particular that schools should not be allowed to request and then store a full tax refund from parents in order to prove students’ eligibility. The Forum also requested that students’ electronic identifiers are not included in the definition of directory information. One area of substantial concern is that the Department of Education has not expressly provided that students who opt-out of having their directory information shared should not be penalized for opting out. Currently, the proposed regulations may be read to suggest that schools may be able to deny benefits, services, or even required activities to students who have exercised the right to opt-out of the publication of directory information..

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