U.S. Department of Education Acts on School Safety Report Recommendation to Improve Understanding of Student Privacy Law
Washington, D.C. – The U.S. Department of Education today released a comprehensive set of frequently asked questions (FAQs) on schools’ and districts’ responsibilities under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) in the context of school safety.
The Federal Commission on School Safety (FCSS) released an in-depth report last December, which observed that “substantial misunderstanding remains at the local level among officials and educators concerning (FERPA), and in particular its application to school-based threats.”
This FAQ document, titled, School Resource Officers, School Law Enforcement Units and the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), consolidates previously issued guidance and technical assistance into a single resource to help raise schools’ and districts’ awareness of these provisions.
"One key takeaway from the commission’s work was that the federal government needs to do a much better job of providing useable information that’s simple, streamlined and clear," said Secretary DeVos. "FERPA is an area where widespread confusion remains, and this clarification will give local school leaders and law enforcement the tools they need to protect student privacy while ensuring the health and safety of students and others in the school community."
The document consists of 37 commonly asked questions about schools’ and school districts’ responsibilities under FERPA relating to disclosures of student information to school resource officers (SROs), law enforcement units and others, and seeks to explain and clarify how FERPA protects student privacy while ensuring the health and safety of students and others in the school community.
The FAQ document includes answers to common FERPA questions involving school safety, such as:
- Can law enforcement unit officials who are off-duty police officers or SROs be considered school officials under FERPA and, therefore, have access to students’ education records?
- Does FERPA permit schools and districts to disclose education records, without consent, to outside law-enforcement officials who serve on a school’s threat assessment team?
- When is it permissible for schools or districts to disclose student education records under FERPA’s health or safety emergency exception?
- Does FERPA permit school officials to release information that they personally observed or of which they have personal knowledge?
The full FAQ document can be found here.
For additional information on the meetings, field visits, listening sessions, roundtables and other resources used to produce the FCSS report, please visit the school safety website.