Annual Notice to SEAs and LEAs re: Obligations under FERPA and PPRA

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Annual Notice to SEAs and LEAs re: Obligations under FERPA and PPRA

Earlier this week, USED’s Student Privacy Policy Office (SPPO) released its annual notice to state and local education agencies detailing their obligations related to FERPA and PPRA. The notice also included links to SPPO FERPA-related information in the context of COVID-19. The communication was direct to state chiefs of education via letter, the text of which is below. 

 

 

Dear Chief State School Officers and Superintendents:

I write to you on behalf of the Student Privacy Policy Office (SPPO), formerly called the Family Policy Compliance Office, of the U.S. Department of Education (Department) to provide the notification required by Section 1061(c)(5)(C) of the No Child Left Behind Act (which amended Section 445 of the General Education Provisions Act (20 U.S.C. § 1232h(c)(5)(C)). This notification is required to inform State educational agencies (SEAs) and local educational agencies (LEAs), as recipients of funds under programs administered by the Department, of their obligations under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) (20 U.S.C. § 1232g; 34 CFR Part 99) and the Protection of Pupil Rights Amendment (PPRA) (20 U.S.C. § 1232h; 34 CFR Part 98). FERPA protects the privacy interests and access rights of parents and students in education records maintained by educational agencies and institutions or by persons acting for such agencies or institutions. PPRA affords parents and students with rights concerning specified marketing activities, the administration or distribution of certain surveys to students, the administration of certain physical examinations or screenings to students, and parental access to certain instructional materials including ones used as part of a student’s educational curriculum. This letter serves as the cover letter to the Department’s annual notification, which has not substantively changed since it was last issued and may be accessed at https://studentprivacy.ed.gov/annual-notices.

I also write to share the following SPPO resources regarding FERPA during this time of social distancing due to the novel coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) as educational agencies and institutions have transitioned to remote learning to educate their students:  

Finally, FERPA-covered educational agencies and institutions and PPRA-covered LEAs may wish to review and, if appropriate, revise their policies and procedures, and their notifications under FERPA and PPRA to provide parents and students with information about any revisions necessitated by changes to their operations during this period.  

Specifically, FERPA-covered educational agencies and institutions should review and, if appropriate, revise: (1) the criteria specified in their annual notification of FERPA rights (in accordance with 34 CFR § 99.7(a)(3)(iii)) as to who constitutes a school official and what constitutes a legitimate educational interest in order to permit the non-consensual disclosure of personally identifiable information from education records to school officials who have been determined to have legitimate educational interests under the school official exception (i.e., 34 CFR § 99.31(a)(1)); and, (2) their directory information policies under FERPA (i.e., 34 CFR §§ 99.31(a)(11) and 99.37(a)). Both the directory information and school official exceptions to the general requirement of consent under FERPA are particularly important during this time of remote learning. LEAs most commonly use the school official exception to permit disclosures under FERPA for the use of video or other technology applications and tools. Provided certain conditions are met, the directory information exception permits disclosure of information contained in a student’s education records that would not generally be considered harmful or an invasion of privacy if disclosed, such as the student’s name, address, phone number, photo image, and email address, including in connection with remote learning.

 

SPPO encourages LEAs to post on their websites their FERPA and PPRA notifications and policies to improve the transparency of information on student privacy. See https://studentprivacy.ed.gov/lea-website-privacy-review. If your educational institutions are conducting remote learning for your students, we also encourage you to work with your attorneys and information security specialists to review prospective technology applications and tools against FERPA requirements.

 

We are available to assist you with your student privacy questions about FERPA and PPRA. You may contact us by submitting your questions to our student privacy help desk at FERPA@ed.gov.

 

 

Sincerely,  

Kala Surprenant

Acting Director 

Student Privacy Policy Office

AASA Joins Groups in $2 Billion Push to Close the Homework Gap

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AASA Joins Groups in $2 Billion Push to Close the Homework Gap

In an effort to close the “homework gap” more than 50 education and related national associations are lining up behind new legislation calling for an additional $2 billion in emergency funding to help students without high speed internet access continue learning at home during the coronavirus pandemic. Legislation, proposed by Representative Grace Meng (D-NY) would use the funds through the FCC’s E-rate Program for parents to purchase Wi-Fi hot spots, modems, routers, and other internet connected devices.

Schools in every state are closed with several of them announcing they will not reopen this year at all. “Time is of the essence to provide remote and distance learning support,” they wrote. “An estimated 9 to 12 million students and some of their teachers currently lack home internet access and are unable to participate in their classes that have been moved online.” This legislation would do just that.

Click here to read the letter sent to House Leadership regarding connectivity issues amid the COVID-19 pandemic.