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