Education Law

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What is the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act?

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) is a federal enactment designed to protect the privacy of a student’s educational records. This law is applicable to all schools which are funded by any applicable program of the U.S. Department of Education. Read below where Experts have answered questions about this privacy act and how parents and students are protected.

Can one school transfer a child’s records to a new school and discuss them between administrators without parental permission?

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act generally prohibits a school from disclosing student records without permission. However, under FERPA one school can transfer records, without the consent of a parent, to another school where the student is seeking enrollment. Disciplinary records which form part of educational records may also be transferred. This is a special exception under school privacy laws. The privacy act, however, applies only to schools governed by FERPA. In schools which do not benefit from federal funds, this does not apply. Educational records may be transferred without permission by such schools without breach of confidentiality laws.

Can a parent or student assign educational record rights to a third person under Power of Attorney?

Typically, educational records may not be assigned under a general power of attorney by either the student or the parents. Unless personally entitled, a third party may not have access to these records. A general power of attorney is neither proper authorization nor proof of eligibility.

Does a school have the right to a psychological evaluation of a student with disabilities prior to admission?

When proof of disability is provided for a student seeking admission, the school administration is empowered under the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act (IDEA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) to request a full psychological evaluation. This is necessary as the school needs complete information about the child. Any information it receives is strictly confidential under FERPA. The discretion for information needed vests with the individual school. These rules apply uniformly across every state in the country.

If a school has violated FERPA by sending transcripts with adverse comments on them to potential employers without permission, what recourse does the victim have?

The victim can seek restitution through litigation by filing a lawsuit against the school administration for 1) negligence per se or 2) defamation. The lawsuit may be filed in either state where the school or victim is located.

Is it a violation of FERPA if a private school will not release and transfer school transcripts to a public school because of nonpayment of tuition fees and does the parent have any options?

The options will depend on the state where the parent and child reside and the type of contract with the private school. Few states have statutes in place for such situations; however, courts differ on their decisions about compelling a school to release a transcript when tuition fees are still owed. Courts in most state rule in favor of a private school especially if the terms are contained in the contract. Since withholding a transcript is the only measure a school has of ensuring its fees are paid, this condition is built into most contracts. Short of litigation the parent could resolve the issue with a payment plan, a promissory note or some other security mutually acceptable to both. Avoiding litigation will benefit both parties. Under FERPA a school cannot withhold a transcript but this rule does not apply to private schools. FERPA was designed to protect family educational rights. But sometimes the act is difficult to interpret. If you need an answer to any problem, ask an Expert for help on FERPA and its provisions.

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