The Family Policy Compliance Office is excited to announce the launch  of the new Student Privacy Website! This new website replaces both the Privacy Technical Assistance Center’s and the Family Policy Compliance Office’s sites.  The Student Privacy Website can be found at:  https://studentprivacy.ed.gov. Be sure to update your bookmarks accordingly!

May schools comply with a subpoena or court order for education records without the consent of the parent or eligible student?

Yes.  FERPA permits disclosure of education records without consent in compliance with a lawfully issued subpoena or judicial order.  See § 99.31(a)(9)(i) and (ii).  However, a school must generally make a reasonable effort to notify the parent or eligible student of the subpoena or judicial order before complying with it in order to allow the parent or eligible student the opportunity to seek protective action, unless certain exceptions apply.

Are there other situations in which school officials may non-consensually disclose PII from education records of students who have been disciplined for conduct that posed a significant risk to the safety of the school community?

Yes.  Under FERPA, a school may share PII from education records with school officials within the school whom the school has determined to have legitimate educational interests in the behavior of a student who has been disciplined for conduct that posed a significant risk to the safety or well-being of that student, other students, or other members of the school community.  See § 99.36(b)(2) and Q&A 9 and § 99.36(b)(1) and (2). 

Does a school have to record disclosures made under FERPA’s health or safety emergency exception?

Yes.  When an educational agency or institution makes a disclosure under the health or safety exception, it must record in the student’s education records the articulable and significant threat that formed the basis for the disclosure, and the parties to whom the information was disclosed.  See § 99.32(a)(5). 

May a school make disclosures under FERPA’s health or safety emergency provision for emergency preparedness exercises?

No.  Disclosures made under the health or safety emergency provision must be “in connection with an emergency,” which means it must be related to an actual, impending, or imminent emergency, such as a natural disaster, a terrorist attack, a campus shooting, or the outbreak of an epidemic disease. 

What does “articulable and significant threat” mean?

The phrase “articulable and significant threat” means that a school official is able to explain, based on all the information available at the time, what the significant threat is under § 99.36 when he or she makes and records the disclosure.  For instance, if a school official believes that a student poses a significant threat, such as a threat of substantial bodily harm to any person, including to the student, then, under FERPA, the school official may disclose PII from the student’s education records without consent to any person whose knowledge of the information will assist in protecti

How does a school know when a health or safety emergency exists so that a disclosure may be made under this exception to consent?

An educational agency or institution must make this determination on a case-by-case basis, taking into account the totality of the circumstances pertaining to a threat to the health or safety of a student or others.  If the school determines that there is an articulable and significant threat to the health or safety of a student or other individuals and that a third party needs PII from education records to protect the health or safety of the student or other individuals, it may disclose that information to appropriate parties without consent. 

Who are considered “appropriate parties” that may receive information under the health or safety emergency exception?

Typically, local or State law enforcement officials, public health officials, trained medical personnel, and parents (including parents of an eligible student) are the types of appropriate parties to whom schools may disclose information under this FERPA exception.  An appropriate party under the health or safety emergency exception to FERPA’s general consent requirement is a party whose knowledge of such information is necessary to protect the health or safety of the student or other persons.  

Does FERPA permit the sharing of education records with outside law enforcement officials, mental health officials, and other experts in the community who serve on a school’s threat assessment team?

Yes.  Under FERPA, a school or school district may disclose PII from education records without consent to threat assessment team members who are not employees of the school or school district if they qualify as “school officials” with “legitimate educational interests.”

What is a threat assessment team?

A threat assessment team is a group of officials that convene to identify, evaluate, and address threats or potential threats to school security.  Threat assessment teams review incidents of threatening behavior by students (current and former), parents, school employees, or other individuals.  These teams are more common in university settings but are also being instituted in K-12 schools.

When is it permissible to utilize FERPA’s health or safety emergency exception for disclosures?

In some situations, school administrators may determine that it is necessary to disclose PII from a student’s education records to appropriate parties in order to address a health or safety emergency.  FERPA’s health or safety emergency provision permits such disclosures when the disclosure is necessary to protect the health or safety of the student or other individuals.  See 34 CFR §§ 99.31(a)(10) and 99.36.  This exception to FERPA’s general consent requirement is limited to the period of the emergency and generally does not allow for a blanket release of PII from a student’s edu

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