Conducting research with children and FERPA

As the school year begins, research and evaluation including schools and children often increases. The following information is intended as a review of Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) for researchers and evaluators working with this population. A future blog will address the Protection of Pupil Rights Amendment

FERPA protects the privacy of student records, regardless of the age of that student. When a student reaches age 18 or transfers from a secondary school to a post-secondary institution, the rights afforded to parents in elementary and secondary schools transfer to the student him or herself.

Under FERPA, parents or eligible students are afforded the following rights:
• Review student educational records for that school
• Request corrections to records they believe are inaccurate
• Request a formal hearing, in the event that records are not corrected or amended as requested
• Provide written permission for the release of any information from an education record

Schools are allowed to disclose records without parent or eligible student consent to the following parties or under the following circumstances (34 CFR § 99.31):
• School officials with legitimate educational interest;
• Other schools to which a student is transferring;
• Specified officials for audit or evaluation purposes;
• Appropriate parties in connection with financial aid to a student;
• Organizations conducting certain studies for or on behalf of the school;
• Accrediting organizations;
• To comply with a judicial order or lawfully issued subpoena;
• Appropriate officials in cases of health and safety emergencies; and
• State and local authorities, within a juvenile justice system, pursuant to specific State law.

Under FERPA, schools have the right to disclose directory information without parent or eligible student consent. Directory information is determined by the schools, and the school must tell parents and eligible students exactly what is included in that school’s directory information, allowing them time to review and make a decision about whether they will allow their directory information to be disclosed. Directory information may include information such as student name, address, phone number, date or year of birth, telephone number, dates of attendance, and honors or awards. Disclosing directory information for a student where it has been prohibited is a violation of FERPA. Schools are also required to provide annual notification about student rights under FERPA, and to annually allow parents and eligible students to withdraw their permission to have directory information shared.
Research that involves the use of school records must adhere to FERPA regulations, and must take care to ensure that all appropriate and explicit consents to use, review, or report information from student records beyond directory information has been obtained.

Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). (n.d.). U.S. Department of Education. Retrieved on 18 June 2013 from