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!

Does FERPA distinguish between School Resource Officers (SROs) and other local police officers who work in a school?

No.  As noted previously, an SRO typically serves as an on-site law enforcement officer and as a liaison with the local police or sheriff’s department.  An SRO also works with teachers and school administrators to promote school safety and to help ensure physical security.  An SRO may be designated by the school as a “law enforcement unit” official under FERPA (§ 99.8).  However, in order for a school to disclose PII from education records to an SRO, the SRO must be considered a “school official” under FERPA in accordance with § 99.31(a)(1)(i)(B) concerning outsourcing.  A school may only n

Can a school provide local or other law enforcement officials with “directory information” on students?

Yes.  If the school or school district has a directory information policy under FERPA that permits this disclosure, then the directory information of those students whose parents (or the eligible students) have not opted out of such a disclosure may be disclosed. 

Does a school have to use only employees to staff its law enforcement unit?

The manner in which a school establishes its law enforcement unit is outside the scope of FERPA.  Accordingly, FERPA does not require a school to use only employees to staff its law enforcement unit.  Local police officers and other law enforcement personnel employed by local or State authorities also may serve as the “law enforcement unit” of an educational agency or institution.  

When can law enforcement unit officials serve as “school officials”?

In order for law enforcement unit officials to be considered school officials, they must meet the criteria for who constitutes a school official that are set forth in the school’s or LEA’s annual notification to parents and eligible students of their rights under FERPA.  See § 99.7(a)(3)(iii).  This notification must be distributed by a school or LEA every year through a forum that is likely to be viewed by parents and eligible students, such as a student handbook, school website, a direct letter to parents, or a combination of methods, and must inform parents and eligible students

What is a “law enforcement unit record”?

“Law enforcement unit records” are those records that are:  (1) created by a law enforcement unit; (2) created for a law enforcement purpose; and (3) maintained by the law enforcement unit.  See 34 CFR § 99.8(b)(1). 

What is a “law enforcement unit”?

Under FERPA, “law enforcement unit” means any individual, office, department, division, or other component of a school, such as a unit of commissioned police officers or noncommissioned security guards, that is officially authorized or designated by that school or school district to (1) enforce any local, State, or Federal law, or refer to appropriate authorities a matter for enforcement of any local, State, or Federal law against any individual or organization other than the agency or institution itself; or (2) maintain the physical security and safety of the agency or institution.  Se

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.

Can off-duty police officers or School Resource Officers (SROs) be considered school officials under FERPA and, therefore, have access to students’ education records?

Yes, if certain conditions are met.  FERPA (§ 99.31(a)(1)(i)(B)) permits schools to outsource institutional services or functions that involve the disclosure of education records to contractors, consultants, volunteers, or other third parties provided that the outside party: 

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