The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) is a federal law in the United States that protects the privacy of student education records. Enacted in 1974, FERPA grants specific rights to students and their parents regarding the access, amendment, and control over the disclosure of their educational information. FERPA’s primary objective is to ensure that students’ educational records remain confidential and are only shared with authorized individuals or entities.

Understanding FERPA Law

FERPA law is designed to safeguard the privacy of students by setting strict guidelines on how educational institutions handle student records. These regulations apply to all schools that receive funds under any program administered by the U.S. Department of Education.

Key Provisions of FERPA Law:

  1. Access to Records: FERPA grants students and parents the right to access their education records maintained by the school. This includes grades, transcripts, class schedules, disciplinary records, and other personal information.
  2. Amendment Rights: Under FERPA, students and parents have the right to request amendments to inaccurate or misleading information in their education records. If the school denies the request, the student or parent has the right to a formal hearing.
  3. Control over Disclosure: FERPA limits the disclosure of education records to third parties without the student’s or parent’s explicit consent. There are, however, several exceptions to this rule, such as disclosures to school officials with legitimate educational interests or in response to a lawfully issued subpoena.
  4. Annual Notification: Schools are required to notify students and parents annually about their rights under FERPA. This notification must include information on how to exercise these rights and what constitutes a FERPA violation.

FERPA Eligible Student

A FERPA eligible student is a student who has reached 18 years of age or is attending a postsecondary institution, regardless of age. Once a student becomes FERPA eligible, the rights previously held by the parents transfer to the student. This means that the student now has control over their education records and the ability to grant or deny access to them.

Rights of FERPA Eligible Students:

  1. Access to Records: FERPA eligible students have the right to inspect and review their education records maintained by the institution.
  2. Consent to Disclosures: These students must provide written consent before the school can disclose their records to third parties, except in certain permitted situations.
  3. Request for Amendments: FERPA eligible students can request changes to their records if they believe the information is inaccurate or misleading.
  4. Filing Complaints: If a FERPA eligible student believes their rights have been violated, they can file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education.

FERPA Violations

A FERPA violation occurs when an educational institution fails to comply with the provisions of FERPA law. Such violations can have serious consequences for both the institution and the individuals involved.

Common Types of FERPA Violations:

  1. Unauthorized Disclosure: Sharing a student’s education records without the required consent or outside the exceptions provided by FERPA.
  2. Denial of Access: Refusing to grant students or parents access to their education records within a reasonable time frame.
  3. Failure to Amend Records: Not allowing students or parents to challenge and request amendments to inaccurate or misleading records.
  4. Inadequate Notification: Failing to inform students and parents of their rights under FERPA on an annual basis.

FERPA Training

To ensure FERPA compliance, educational institutions must provide FERPA training to their staff, faculty, and administrators. This training helps individuals understand their responsibilities under FERPA and how to handle education records appropriately.

Components of Effective FERPA Training:

  1. Overview of FERPA: Training should start with a comprehensive overview of FERPA law, including its purpose, key provisions, and the rights it grants to students and parents.
  2. Handling Education Records: Participants should learn how to properly manage and store education records to maintain their confidentiality and security.
  3. Consent and Disclosure: Training should cover the procedures for obtaining consent from students or parents before disclosing education records and the exceptions to this requirement.
  4. Responding to Requests: Staff should be trained on how to respond to requests for access to records, both from students and parents and from third parties.
  5. Identifying and Reporting Violations: Training should include guidance on recognizing potential FERPA violations and the steps to take if a violation occurs.

Ensuring FERPA Compliance

FERPA compliance is crucial for educational institutions to protect student privacy and avoid legal repercussions. Compliance involves implementing policies and procedures that align with FERPA requirements and regularly reviewing these practices to ensure they remain effective.

Steps to Achieve FERPA Compliance:

  1. Policy Development: Institutions should develop clear policies that outline how education records are to be handled, including access, disclosure, and amendment procedures.
  2. Staff Training: Regular FERPA training sessions should be conducted for all employees who interact with education records to ensure they understand their responsibilities and the importance of maintaining compliance.
  3. Access Controls: Implementing strict access controls to ensure that only authorized individuals can view or manage education records. This includes using secure systems and technologies to protect data.
  4. Audit and Review: Regularly auditing and reviewing the institution’s FERPA practices to identify any areas of non-compliance and make necessary adjustments.
  5. Clear Communication: Ensuring that students and parents are clearly informed about their FERPA rights and how they can exercise them. This includes providing accessible resources and support for any questions or concerns.

FERPA Privacy Rights

FERPA privacy rights are the specific rights granted to students and parents under FERPA law. These rights are designed to protect the confidentiality of education records and provide individuals with control over their personal information.

Key FERPA Privacy Rights:

  1. Right to Access: Students and parents have the right to inspect and review the student’s education records maintained by the school. Schools must comply with these requests within a reasonable time frame, typically 45 days.
  2. Right to Amend: If students or parents believe that information in the education records is inaccurate, misleading, or violates the student’s privacy rights, they have the right to request an amendment. If the school denies the request, the student or parent can request a formal hearing.
  3. Right to Consent to Disclosures: Schools must obtain written consent from students or parents before disclosing education records to third parties, with certain exceptions such as disclosures to school officials with legitimate educational interests.
  4. Right to File a Complaint: Students and parents can file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education if they believe their FERPA rights have been violated. The department’s Family Policy Compliance Office (FPCO) is responsible for investigating these complaints.


FERPA, or the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, is a critical federal law that protects the privacy of student education records. By understanding FERPA law, the rights of FERPA eligible students, the implications of FERPA violations, and the importance of FERPA training and compliance, educational institutions can ensure they uphold the privacy rights of their students. Ensuring FERPA compliance not only protects students’ personal information but also fosters a trustworthy and secure educational environment.