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Home > Privacy and Government > Privacy Law Governing the Government Sector > Sectoral Laws > 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. Questions about whether honor roll listings can be posted, and whether students can grade each others' papers, have become matters for the federal courts rather than parents, teachers, and school administrators.

FERPA applies to public schools, which have little incentive to treat customers and their information well. Private schools, on the other hand, must carry out their educational mission as dictated by parents (or others who can withhold funds) in every way or else they will lose students and funding. In addition, private schools can be sued under the privacy torts if they invade student or family privacy. It is unclear whether public schools can be held accountable this way.

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 children.


Privacy Taken to the Nth Degree, Center for Individual Freedom (January 30, 2004)

Comments? (Subject: FERPA)

[updated 01/30/04]

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