By Edupliance | 26th February, 2016

FERPA – the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act, prevents people from sharing innocuous details about someone’s academics without knowing its consequences.

This law safeguards a student/learner’s academic and professional interests by keeping their academic records secret and inaccessible by anyone unauthorized to do so.

Its sole prerogative is to prevent bullying, harassment and untoward leakage of personal academic records out in the public. Apart from which, it also aims to curate a student’s academic records for quick retrieval in times of need.

That being explicitly implied, a private communication between a student and an educator might not be so private which, in turn, could violate the norms of FERPA.

What is FERPA?

FERPA is a lifesaver for millions of students studying in the USA. It safeguards their personal details like academic grades, personal info, social security numbers and other intrinsic details directly pertaining to their well-being. These details can be leaked intentionally or unintentionally via calls, emails, social media sharing or old-fashioned document release.

Under FERPA, state law normally requires a school or educational institution to maintain properly collated student records for a specific period of time even after the student has left the institution, for example five years after the student left.

Only the parents and students themselves have the right to review, request details and, in some rare cases, receive printed copies of student records.

Benefits by FERPA for students:

  • Proper access to their educational records,
  • An opportunity to seek amendments to records (if required)
  • Partial control over the nature of disclosure of information from the said records.

Why does it matter?

  • No other person has authority to view a student’s personal details unless the student attests the validity of this request. If the student needs to view his/her records, he has to do so with a written request to the authorities concerned. If a student requests digital communications about their own records, their school/institution is liable to honor the request by potentially sifting through thousands of emails to supply the information requested.
  • Many data mining companies partner with various social networks and news providers across the World Wide Web to consolidate over billions of social conversations into a single curated platform (also known as a meta-market). This gives many company clients full access to complete user’s social data that allows them to design targeted and intimate conversations for floating a product/service.
  • Emails and other digital communications sent out by third-parties come under the scanner of FERPA regulations since they are directly linked to a person’s veil of secrecy over their personal records. Since most communication about a student’s performance are done digitally, it is pertinent to keep properly curated records safely to avoid them leaking out into the wrong hands.

This is what FERPA entails. Securing information and sharing it only with parties concerned. People who overstep these limitations are penalized by the courts of law.

Penalty for Non-Compliance

  • Many courts across the US have routinely upheld that FERPA does not create any private right of action against any specific educational institution.
  • Complaints against non-compliance of FERPA should be filed with the Department of Education, which will further investigate all issues pertaining to the case.
  • Any educational institution that is found guilty in compliance with FERPA norms may have to forfeit its federal funding. However, some states may allow for payment of monetary damages for the disclosure of private information without cutting any funds.
  • It is imperative that all sorts of educational institutions understand the underlying principles, limitations and existing restrictions imposed under FERPA in order to avoid fund cuts or restricted federal money provided to schools/institutions that do not have their information security policies and their handling procedures in place.

How to comply with FERPA without violating any social media rules?

  • Social media is a boon and a bane in today’s world. It is currently a hot-button issue when it comes to protecting someone’s personal details. No one likes to know that their details are out in the open, especially when it does not concern the entire world.
  • This is where FERPA steps in and tries to protect your academic records under federal law in order to safeguard you from untoward harassment or embarrassment over your academics.
  • People can misuse your personal details for intentionally harassing you for reasons best known to them since most of your personal details like your SS number, phone number, address, details of where you studied at, your family tree, etc. leaked out.

At Edupliance, we hold many compliance training sessions pertaining to FERPA that help you understand as an administrator or a student, about the rules and regulations you need to follow in order to comply with FERPA norms. Apart from this, our expert held webinars also give you several examples of how FERPA violation can damage your credibility.