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FERPA Exceptions

Generally, schools must obtain written consent from parents and eligible students before disclosing any personally identifiable information from a student's education record other than "directory information." But there are many exceptions to this general rule. A school may disclose personally identifiable information from education records without consent under the following circumstances:

  1. Education records may be disclosed to school officials within the school, such as teachers, who have a legitimate educational interest in the information. It is the school's responsibility to determine when there is a legitimate educational interest. For example, a teacher concerned about a student's performance may have a legitimate educational interest in looking at the student's standardized test scores, but a teacher who just wanted to find out the IQ scores of his or her students probably would not.
  2. Education records may be disclosed to another school, school district, or post-secondary institution where the student is planning to enroll.
  3. Education records may be disclosed to representatives of the Comptroller General of the United States, the Attorney General of the United States, the Secretary of the United States Department of Education, or other state or local authorities for purposes of audit or evaluation.
  4. Education records may be disclosed for purposes related to financial aid for which the student has applied, as long as the information is necessary to make determinations of eligibility for aid, amount or conditions of aid, or enforcement of terms of aid.
  5. Education records may be disclosed to state or local officials or authorities within a juvenile justice system, as long as the disclosure is made pursuant to a state law.
  6. Education records may be disclosed to organizations that are conducting studies for educational agencies or institutions in connection with the development or administration of predicative tests or student aid programs, or studies that are intended to improve educational instruction. Such studies must not permit identification of parents or students by anyone other than representatives of the organization. Furthermore, the personally identifiable information must be destroyed when no longer needed for the study.
  7. Education records may be disclosed to accrediting organizations for purposes of conducting accreditation procedures.
  8. Education records may be disclosed to the parents of a dependent student as defined by the IRS.
  9. Education records may be disclosed in connection with a health or safety emergency.
  10. Education records may be released in compliance with a court order, such as a subpoena, but schools must first make a "reasonable effort" to provide notice to parents or students. In the case of law enforcement or federal grand jury subpoenas, the issuing court or agency may, for good cause, order the school not to disclose the existence or contents of the subpoena or the records released pursuant to the subpoena. However, absent an emergency, schools cannot provide non-directory student information to police without a subpoena.
  11. Student "directory information" may also be disclosed without the student or parent's consent. Directory information can include the student's name, address, telephone number, date and place of birth, major field of study, dates of attendance, participation in school-sponsored extracurricular activities, height and weight of student athletes, degrees earned, honors and awards earned, the educational institution last attended, photographs and e-mail addresses. Schools do not have to release directory information, but if they do they must give public notice of the categories of information they classify as "directory information." The school must then give parents and eligible students a reasonable amount time to inform the school that they do not want some or all of their directory information disclosed without consent. Since 2002, secondary schools must provide students' names, addresses, and telephone numbers to military recruiters upon request, but must have first given students and parents the opportunity to opt out of such disclosure.