FERPA is the federal law that protects the privacy of personally identifiable information (PII) in students’ education records. “Education records” are those records that are: (1) directly related to a student; and (2) maintained by an educational agency or institution or by a party acting for the agency or institution. FERPA provides parents and eligible students the right to access a student’s education records, the right to seek to have the records amended, and the right to protect the PII in students’ education records.
FERPA and REMOTE LEARNING
Recording a synchronous class and posting it in a secure student portal for other students in your classroom to watch later is not in itself a FERPA violation. Department of Education, FERPA & Virtual Learning During COVID-19, 18-26 (March 30, 2020). However, keep in mind that disclosing information from student records during class could be a FERPA violation, both during in-person instruction and during remote instruction. The following are examples of potential FERPA violations to avoid:
- Discussing a student’s grade in front of the classroom
- Discussing a student’s disability status or that a student has an IEP
- Discussing student discipline details regarding a specific student (as opposed to classroom expectations)
Information shared by students freely with the class is not information that has been disclosed from student records. However, to ensure student privacy, teachers should use their professional judgment to omit any such information that students share that may be overly personal, especially when shared by young students. Teachers should seek guidance from a building administrator if they are concerned about posting a lesson. Staff should freely communicate with their principals regarding any other concerns that arise during online instruction.
Educators are the first line of defense in ensuring the privacy of student data. From ensuring sufficient passwords to selecting privacy-protective apps to teaching students about digital citizenship, educators have an essential role to play in securing student information. This guide is meant to help teachers utilize technology in the classroom while protecting their students’ privacy. Learn more from Student Privacy Compass here: FERPA/SHERPA