The Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) is a federal law (20 U.S.C. § 1232g; 34 CFR Part 99) that applies to educational agencies and institutions that receive federal funds under any program administered by the Secretary of Education. FERPA gives parents certain rights with respect to their children’s education records.
These rights transfer to the student when he or she reaches age 18 or attends a postsecondary school. Students to whom the rights have been transferred are “eligible students.” Generally, schools must have written permission from the parent or eligible student before releasing any identifiable information from a student’s education record. The consent must specify the records that may be disclosed, state the purpose of the disclosure, and identify the party to whom the disclosure may be made.
FERPA does, however, allow schools to disclose records to organization(s) conducting studies for, or on behalf of the school, in order to develop, validate, or administer predictive tests; administer student aid programs; or improve instruction. Additionally, schools may disclose, without consent, “directory” information, unless specifically directed by parents or eligible students not to disclose directory information about them.
Researchers are encouraged to consult with the school early in the research design process regarding the need to obtain consent for educational records.