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Home > Privacy and Business > Privacy Law Governing the Private Sector > Select Statutes > The Family Education Rights and Privacy Act

The Family Education Rights and Privacy Act

The Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA; 20 U.S.C. 1232g) was enacted by Congress in 1974, and it has been amended several times. The Act gives students over the age of 18 and the parents of students under 18 certain rights to inspect and review records, request corrections to records that they believe to be incorrect or misleading, and not to have such information released without permission except under certain circumstances.

FERPA applies to educational agencies and institutions that receive funds from the U.S. Department of Education. FERPA also covers the students and parents of students who attend such institutions.

FERPA presents difficult issues because of the way it exerts control over schools.

Private schools have a business interest in treating students and parents well. They will suffer adverse publicity and lose customers if they do not carefully protect the privacy of student information. They are also subject to suits based on common law privacy torts if they do not. For them, FERPA merely adds bureaucracy and threatens them with the loss of federal funding.

FERPA, of course, applies to public schools, which have an important characteristic of other government agencies, little incentive to treat customers and their information well. Public schools also may not be subject to suit under the privacy torts, which renders some kind of statutory protection necessary as to them.

FERPA imposes federal information requirements on educational institutions that should be controlled by the parents, teachers, and principals who know best how to serve the needs of their children.


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[updated 8/29/00]

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