Your Right to Privacy: A Basic Guide to Legal Rights in An Information Society

By Evan Hendricks; Trudy Hayden et al. | Go to book overview

VIII
School Records

What kinds of information are contained in school records?

Much more than just grades. School records describe students' emotional development, social behavior, medical problems, learning problems, political and religious preferences, family members, physical appearance, hobbies and extra- curricular interests, ethnic background, economic circumstances, attitudes toward teachers and other students, psychological test scores, criminal history, even personal secrets confided to a friendly teacher or counselor. Their contents range from such objective information as a student's height and weight to the subjective impressions of a teacher about the "tendencies" of an unruly child.

Many people attend school from the time they are three or four years old until their mid-twenties and even beyond. Records generated by each school follow the student and are likely to determine how the student is evaluated and placed by every new teacher and institution in turn. The records maintained on a kindergarten child may some day have an effect on his admission to college or acceptance for employment. Because school records are so influential and so long- lived, it is important that parents and students know what they contain and who has access to them.

Do students have a right to see their own school records?

Yes, if a student is either eighteen years old or attends college, university, or other postsecondary institution and if the school receives federal money from the US Office of Education. The student's right of access is mandated by a federal statute enacted in 1974, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), known also as the Buckley amendment.1 In some localities, state laws, formal state or local school board policies, or the administrative policies of individual schools may give students under eighteen a right of access to some or all of their education records.

The right of access and other rights conferred by the FERPA

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